Since I've been posting about craft on the Alien Blog I thought I'd start adding the posts here too. We've been having great discussions about writing techniques.
I had the great pleasure this week of reading a synopsis for a sci-fi novel that really grabbed me. I won't mention the specifics of it since it is still in the formulative stage but I will say that the concept really impressed me. But I also had to laugh because the author said "I keep adding research." My response it you can add the details in later, just write the story. But thats not how it works for this writer.
There are plotters and there are pantsers. I happen to be a pantser. I have an idea for a story, I know who the characters are in my mind and I sit down and write. Sometimes I have a vague outline. And I mean vague. I think I wrote ten books before I ever wrote a synopsis. I see a few scenes in my mind and I build my story around them. Don't get me wrong, I have plenty of goal, motivation and conflict but its all in my head and I let the characters lead me. At times like these when life keeps throwing me curve balls I wish I was more organized in my writing. It would be great to have all my historical research completed before I begin writing. With the sci-fi I pretty much make it up as I go along, as long as it makes sense in my universe. Which is why my sci-fi romance is heavier on the characters than the technical. That stuff gives me a headache. I usually will just say place or thing in my manuscript and go back and add it in after I get through the story, or when I hit a mental block.
Then there are plotters. I know a writer that writes a thirty page outline. The writer who showed me his story was the same way. They are very organized and have each plot point labeled down to the exact page in the book. Plotters tend to be heavier on the plot that the character and usually go back and layer in character scenes, or what I call date scenes. These are scenes that develop the relationship between your two main characters.
As you can see from all the posts on craft we all have our different techniques. One is not better than the other (unless you are stuggling then you will bemoan the fact that you aren't the other way) Its just you know what works for you. There are all kinds of classes on plotting and development and how to write great characters. I know a writer who has to have a complete bulliten board done of her characters, down to what kind of ice cream they like and where they went on vacation when they were seven. It works for her. You have to find what works for you. That doesn't mean that you shouldn't try to improve it. I now at least try to have more of an outline going. And I get all caught up in following research trails and love to pick up history and picture books from the sale tables at B&N and Borders. But I also know I will always be a pantser. A what if type of writer.
The funny thing is that when a book is done well, you can't tell what technique the writer used. Because both work and work well.