YWS: How Writers Write – Take 1

chimpanzeetypingI’d like to share with you a little about the writing process. Of course, I can’t tell you how all authors write, but I can share my process as well as those of some authors I know.

There is a popular theory that if you had a room of monkeys typing on a keyboard and infinite amount of time, they would be able to replicate all of the great works of fiction or indeed any book ever written. It is called the infinite monkey theorem—and the idea has always tickled me because I cannot conceive of a roomful of well-behaved monkeys sitting for as long as it would take to create the complete works of Shakespeare. Jesse Anderson created a fun visualization of what it would take for the monkeys to recreate Shakespeare … hover the cursor over the text and the box on the right shows how many attempts it would take to create the highlighted phrase. And at the bottom of this post I have included a computer simulation of how those random phrases might occur. So I guess my biggest problem is not having enough monkeys to do the writing for me. 😀

Another theory is that to write a story, you start at the beginning, keep writing until you reach the end and then stop. This sounds easy, but when you start to put the words down all sorts of questions start cropping up. What is the beginning? How will I know when to end? How do I get from the beginning to the end? Getting started is tough when looking at the blank page, but sometimes knowing when the story is done is even harder. YIKES!!

Some authors create a very detailed outline of their story before they start to write it. They need to know every plot point before they can start writing the story. Once they have all of the details mapped out, they put the words on the page and the characters in the story follow the map. They are called plotters.

Some authors don’t know where the writing is going to take them, they don’t map out their story line first, but just start with a concept (a setting, a character, an event) and see where it takes them. They approach writing with a “let’s see what happens next” attitude. They are called pansters.

I actually fit in between the two. I need to know the basics of my story, but as I write, there are twists that happen that I didn’t know were going to happen. It’s almost like the story takes on a life of its own and the characters go in directions that I didn’t know they were going to go in, but eventually, they meet me back at the story line that I started with. It’s fun when your characters start taking on a life of their own, because at that point, they start writing the story for you. Maybe I do have monkeys in a room somewhere. Or maybe I’m the monkey.

Another thing to keep in mind, is how you approach the story may depend on the story itself. Some take more planning and others need to be left more to where the characters take you. Where do YOU fall on the spectrum? What is your writing comfort zone?

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2 Comments on “YWS: How Writers Write – Take 1”

  1. I used to totally be a pantser, but now I’m more of a plotter. When I was a pantser it took me about ten times as long to finish a first draft than it does now! And now I plan so much that my outlines turn into first drafts at about 20k words or more. But it helps a lot because I’m in a writing mood more often than a planning mood, so with a detailed outline I don’t moan and groan about not knowing what should happen next. But even with such detailed outlines, I do change things as I go. So on a 1 to 10 scale with 1 being a pantser and 10 being a planner, I’d say I’m about a 7.5, haha.

    Thanks for the great blog post!!

    1. The how much for me depends on the book. Some are plotted more than others. The less plotting, the more editing … usually. That also depends on how quickly the words go down. 😉

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