Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Prepare to Dive In, Or Not

I have begun writing the third book in the Niki Alexander series and, after much deliberation over how I wrote the last two books, and the unpublished before that, I decided to do go about the process differently. Normally I would plow into the story after getting a rush of inspiration. Then by page 50, I would brake, because I had nowhere to go.

Finally I would start the outline, draw of graph of plot points and beats, write characters studies, motives and goals for my main characters, especially for the villain. Then I could continue, and track my progress with chapter outlines - after I write them. By then, I found I needed to change the first 50 pages and rethink that first rush of inspiration.

This time I made the decision to plot first, write later. Sounds logical, doesn't it? But I know many writers who don't outline, just go where the story takes them. I've done that in the past and would end up writing 30 or more drafts until I figured it all out. A couple of times I got so stuck and confused, I never finished the manuscript. So maybe I'm an outline-type writer. Maybe because I'm a Virgo.

And since I made that decision, my thoughts have never strayed far from my plot. Questions, some answers, arguments, maybe a different direction have consumed my thoughts - during the day when I'm driving, working, eating. Even my dreams get the backlash. I write down my thoughts when I can and the seeds of these ideas spring forth more ideas. Scratch one, add two. The more I work at it, the more sense it starts to make and I can see a novel developing.

I'm not finished plotting yet, far from it. But I'm hoping that when I am, the story in its full incarnation will spill onto the page effortlessly. Yeah, that'll happen. Well, maybe it will. I'll let you know.

Meanwhile, what are your thoughts about outlining first?


  1. Oh boy, Laura, my perpetual problem. Let me know how the plotting works this time. Maybe I'll give in a try again myself!

  2. I'm hoping it will save a lot of time.

  3. Great post, Laura! I'm a pantser myself. The one time I tried outlining first, the story stopped midstream and it's still sitting on my computer unfinished. Hmm...maybe I didn't outline enough and maybe I need to go back and try it again!

    Good luck and I hope you'll let us know how it goes when you do get to the actual writing of the story!


  4. Laura,

    When I write short stories, I just write. But when I write novels with Mark, we need an outline - and some level of committment to sticking to that outline.

    Even with a detailed outline, though, the characters won't always behave.