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I just finished reading The INFJ Writer: Cracking the Creative Genius of the World’s Rarest Type by Lauren Sapala, and not only was I blown away by how much it felt like she was writing about me, but the book really got me thinking about how my intuition comes into play when I’m writing.
You’ve probably heard that there are two types of writers: plotters and pantsers. If you just thought, yeah, I’ve heard this before, I’m out of here—wait! This isn’t going to be your typical plotters versus pantsers post. I believe things aren’t that black and white when it comes to writing a novel and the writer’s intuition plays a big role in the creation of their novel.
First, a quick refresher on how plotters and pantsers write for anyone who might be new to the terms. A plotter creates an outline before setting out to start their novel and they probably know a great deal about their characters as well as what will happen at each main point in their novel.
A pantser, on the other hand, is someone who writes by the “seat of their pants”. This type of writer starts writing and sees where their writing leads them. There are advantages and disadvantages to both types of writing. The most notable advantage to plotting is that your story may require less developmental editing when you are finished. The advantage to pantsing is that you might end up with a story completely fresh and new.
As mentioned previously, I believe there are many combinations of plotting and pantsing and that most writers probably use a combination of the two. I know I certainly do. Here are some ways using your intuition can help you in the novel writing process whether you prefer to plot your story or write by the seat of your pants.
Embrace the process
Being creative by nature insists that you keep an open mind. It's not just the end product that matters, but also how you get there. Often the process is just as meaningful as the end result. By sticking to a strict outline, you do yourself a disservice. You never know what amazing idea might come up while you are writing.
Here’s where you can use your intuition to explore that idea rather than blocking it out and strictly sticking to your outline. Give yourself permission to go with the flow and see where it leads. Your outline will be there waiting for you if you don’t like the new direction your story is taking.
Go with the flow
As hard as I try to have a detailed outline and follow it, I always end up writing scenes or chapters out of order. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this. At first I resisted and wanted to strictly follow my outline, but I realized those chapters that I felt inspired to write out of order were better when I wrote them feeling inspired to do so rather than pushing them aside until it was their turn. If this happens to you, just go with it.
The wonderful thing about being a writer is that we get to edit our work. If things read like they are out of order, we can always change it later.
Another place where I like to go with the flow is chapter length. When I first started writing novels, I wanted each chapter to be a similar length, because that is how I wrote my nonfiction book. Having equally weighted chapters might work for nonfiction, but for fiction, there is a lot more leeway. There are no hard and fast rules for chapter length and I’ve seen successful authors write chapters that are one sentence or even one word long. It creates a wonderful effect if done skillfully.
Know when to move on
If there are no rules regarding chapter length, how do you know when to move on to the next chapter? This is another area where you can use your intuition. Remember with chapter endings, you want to leave your reader wanting more, so think about whether you’ve achieved that before moving on to the next chapter.
I like to think about how my favourite authors end their chapters and it helps me to trust my intuition in my own writing. If you’ve read a ton of books in the genre you are writing, you will know when it’s time to move to the next scene or chapter. You have a sense about whether or not you’ve achieved what that chapter or scene set out to do. When you’re editing, you can check to see that your story has moved forward in some way.
It’s okay if you don’t know
I cannot stress this last point enough. It’s okay if you don’t know what you’re doing! Most writers start out that way, and you know what, you can always learn what you need to know along the way. Don’t get caught up in thinking that you don’t know enough to write a novel. If you’ve read a lot of books and you want to take a crack at writing your own, just start. Then take small steps toward achieving your goal each day. If you can make steady progress, before you know it, you will have finished writing that novel.
One of the many things I love about the writing community is that there are many people willing to help new writers by sharing their knowledge. One of those people is writing coach Kevin T. Johns. If you’re not convinced about trusting your intuition when it comes to novel writing, check out his short guide, The Novel Writer’s Roadmap. Kevin is a plotter, but pantsers will find some helpful tips in this guide too.
Click on the image below to check it out.