Their perceptions are heavily influenced by the completed book they hold in their hands; their perceptions about teaching are heavily influenced by dimly recalled, rose-coloured or angst-ridden memories of being students, and neither really provides an accurate perception of the writing or teaching experience.
But as they reverently or nonchalantly hold the 360 pages (in rather small type, I admit, but there’s a reason for that) of Gryphon’s Heir, one of the first things they ask is whether I had the plan for the entire plot when I began. If they’re more knowledgeable of the writing process, they ask whether I’m a plotter or a pantser (as in a compulsive planner, or flying by the seat of my pants --- I certainly didn’t invent the terms), and my answer is simply, “Yes.” Because successful writing needs both.
Now, I should note this is coming from an extremely organized individual: I spend my entire professional life planning carefully, because 31 years working with teenagers has shown that leaving things to the vagaries of fate is asking for trouble. However, a little spontaneity now and then is not necessarily bad. Like most things in life, it’s all about timing. And context. And successfully gauging your audience.
You also have to be prepared to be fast on your feet and Seize the (Teachable) Moment, because if you can run with it, your kids will love you for it... and maybe learn something unexpected and valuable into the bargain.
But you also have to be aware of and okay with the Life Truth that, no matter how much and how hard you plan, things probably won’t end up as you envision --- in fact, many times, the end result doesn’t resemble the original plan much at all.
You know, the writing process is a lot like that too, in my experience. You can certainly plan your story arc, although doing it for the entire story is probably a waste of time.
I did not plot the entire story arc for Gryphon’s Heir. As I have said, it started as a very small incident I wrote solely in response to an unhappy time. Then it grew. And grew some more... some more... and then, kind of like in the film Frankenstein, I screamed, “It’s alive!” Well, maybe not quite. But I was definitely writing by the seat of my pants for a longish while. And you know what? There’s nothing wrong with that, because that’s really how life tends to work. Look at our daily lives: somebody says/does something to/at you; you respond. They say/do something else, and you respond again, or initiate something yourself. And because things happen in real time (i.e. the fraction of a second it takes to say/do something really stupid, which seems how most of us spend our days) we mostly don’t sit down and ponder our next words or course of action. We can’t. Life happens too darn fast. Life is frequently a pantser situation... so writing often is, too.
Now, I do plan some sequences ahead of time. (In my naiveté, I used to try and plan four or five chapters in advance. Then I discovered material I thought would take maybe one chapter had ballooned into two or three.) There is comfort in having an outline, thinking you know how things are heading for a while, because nature abhors a vacuum. So I do still plan (although sometimes it feels curiously like being on cruise control, which in writing, I find uncomfortable). But I don’t plan too far anymore, because I was discovering, curiously enough, I wasn’t really in control of the situation (rather like real life --- which is a very countercultural idea in a society like ours, obsessed as it is with the idea of control). Characters suddenly decided to do something different than planned; events suddenly turned out differently than planned.
And you know what? It was great. Because it made my characters, and the world I’d created for them, real.
What more could a Creator ask for?