Writing Dichotomies

As a writer I have long been familiar with the classifications of pantser vs. plotter.  Being myself somewhere caught in the middle of the two, this classification didn’t seem to capture the difficulties I sometimes (okay, I’ll be honest, often) encounter with my writing.  Whether I plot or fly by the seat of my pants, I often run into the same roadbloacks.

A few weeks ago I joined Mission:Accountability, a group started by Jen Hendren, where writers can set their goals and receive encouragement and creative “punishments” if they miss them.  It’s been a blast.  One of the profile questions on there is whether you’re a chunkster or a linear writer.  I always knew Jen was a chunkster.  The whole concept seemed absolutely insane to me (a linear writer)–the writing equivalent to throwing darts at a board while wearing a blindfold.  As I read through the profiles of the other members, I realized that there were quite a few chunksters in our midst.  Clearly, there is method to this madness if it works for lots of people.  So yesterday I posed the question to all of them: How do you do it?  What is your process and why does it work for you.

The discussion that followed was very illuminating and made me question exactly why I insist on writing in a linear fashion.  The story doesn’t always come to me in that order.  In fact, it rarely comes to me in that order.  My plot development stage, as it turns out, is very chunkster-like, but I always go back and start from the beginning with every project–even if other, later scenes are clearer in my head.  Why is this?  Honestly, I don’t know.  I’ve often wrestled with beginnings and Pot encouraged me to try moving on to something I did know (she’s something of a chunkster too as it turns out), but I was usually very resistant to this idea, and I really can’t pinpoint a good reason for it.  If a scene is clear in my head, why not go ahead and write it?

Pot and I talked a bit about this earlier this morning and she was saying that she’s more of a chunkster by inclination but that she forces herself to be linear because writing the chunks she’s most interested in first is kind of like a dessert before dinner kind of thing and she loses interest in actually finishing the whole thing.  I’m not sure how that would work for me, but I think I may try it out some when I hit a dead spot.

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