The husband and I have been on a puzzle kick lately (currently we're working on a tricky 3d St. Basil's Cathedral). It's a good non-work-related activity, an opportunity to spend time together, and it gives us a nice sense of accomplishment. At least one thing our life is coming together smoothly!
But like any other couple, we can get on each other's nerves, too, and that's because, even when it comes to puzzle building, we have very different ways of working.
Phil will study the puzzle cover, figure out which orientation he's working from (remember, it's 3d). Then, based on the geometry of the section we're working on, he'll figure out what shape pieces he'll need, and search for those specific pieces. In other words, he starts with the big picture and moves inward.
I tend to start with a specific piece. Then I choose other pieces that are the same color, and look for ones that will fit with mine. Only when I get stuck do I look at the box to see how my little bit corresponds with the bigger picture.
In the real world, this results in us fighting over the puzzle box, stealing pieces from each other, and complaining about who got hair on the puzzle.
But later I was thinking about our different ways of working, and how, even though hubby's a scientist, not a writer, it's a classic illustration of the difference between plotters and pantsers.
For those of you who haven't heard those terms before, a plotter is someone who plots out her entire novel before she starts writing. A pantser, on the other hand, tends to fly by the seat of her pants, figuring the plot out intuitively as she writes.
Plotters can be a little dismissive of pantsers. I've often heard a confident plotter (or non-writer), assuming that the most complexly plotted books (mysteries, for example), must have been planned out beforehand, whereas those character-driven, philosophically wandering books must all be written by pantsers.
I wish I could remember which mystery writer (Val McDermid?) admitted to being a complete panster.
Regardless, in working on the puzzle it's occurred to me that no matter what method we use, in a few weeks, Phil and I will have a 3d St. Basil's Cathedral. And I think it's the same with plotters and pantsers. Some of us start with a seed, watch it grow into a tree, add a few more seeds, and end up with a forest. Others start with a forest, arrange it into an appealing shape, then figure out what that means for each tree. Either way, when we're finished we end up with a book. Or a forest. Or a puzzle? I think I lost my metaphor back there somewhere.
Are you a plotter or a pantser? Did you choose to write that way, or does it come naturally to you?