Plotters and Pantsers

This year, I am involved with Sheridan College as a writing mentor.  An online or virtual volunteer position, an opportunity to give back that was presented to me by the Writers Community of York Region (WCYR). I have been a member for some years and recommend writing groups to everyone passionate about writing.

Recently, while getting acquainted, my mentee asked if I was reading any books. I was, and I told him I was enjoying John Irving and his novel The Hotel New Hampshire. I explained that I had just finished another Irving novel, A Prayer for Owen Meaney.

That motivated me to pick up another; Irving’s writing is excellent. 

My mentee is sending chapters of his manuscript to me for review. His writing is great. The characters are well-formed, and the story is interesting.  I asked him if he was a plotter or a pantser. I mentioned Steven King as being a pantser. I find myself to be a mix of the two. 

This got me thinking and curious as to how John Irving writes. I found a wonderful interview with Irving on The Academy of Achievement. 

A little bit of information on John Irving and his style of writing novels;

“I don’t begin a novel or a screenplay until I know the ending. And I don’t mean only that I have to know what happens. I mean that I have to hear the actual sentences. I have to know what atmosphere the words convey. Is it a melancholic story? Is there something uplifting or not about it? Is it soulful? Is it mournful? Is it exuberant? What is the language that describes the end of the story? And I don’t want to begin something – I don’t want to write that first sentence – until all the important connections in the novel are known to me. As if the story has already taken place, and it’s my responsibility to put it in the right order to tell it to you.”

Excerpt of an interview with John Irving on The Academy of Achievement.