Plotter or Pantser?
That’s the question asked in writer circles around the world. I am a proud, card carrying, plotter.
My plotting method is a bit crazy, but it works for me. First, I plot out the beginning of the book. I go as far as I can easily get. Once I’m happy with what I have, I write the first chapter. Well, usually I write the first few chapters. Enough to get a good feel for the characters and the story. Once I feel like I know what’s going on, I revisit the outline and update it. Then I complete. This usually takes a few days. Then I return to the book, touch up the chapters I’ve written, and continue on with writing the story. Seems like it should be smooth sailing from there on out, right? You’d think so, but that’s not how it goes. Ever. There are things that happen over the process of writing a book that kills the outline I created. Okay. Maybe kill is too strong a word. Let’s say, severely cripples it.
- Character Revelations – As you write your first draft you get to know and understand your characters. The more you write, the more you understand them. They become real to you and hopefully, three dimensional. You understand what drives them, their past, how they feel about what’s happening in their present. It’s great. But then, sometimes while this is happening you have an epiphany that is so huge you actually have to re-work your entire book to accommodate what you’ve found out about your character. Let me be blunt here. Fixing the story to match this revelation is not an option. If you don’t fix it, your story will ring false to readers. It will read as though the writer (you) were forcing things to happen just because you wanted them to happen. Trust me, do the heavy lifting. You’ll be glad later you did.
- The Killer is not the Killer – Sometimes people tell me they weren’t expecting one of my books to end the way it did. Often, I’m laughing to myself because I wasn’t either. I’d planned and plotted out something entirely different. I thought someone else was the villain, but somewhere during the process of writing I realized I’d done the character I’d fingered for the crimes wrong. They weren’t guilty at all. That character there, trying to look innocent, was the doer. Again, you can’t ignore these types of revelations, even if it means a lot of re-writing. You ignore at your own peril. Remember, readers can always tell when a writer is forcing something to happen because it’s what they want to happen. Do the work. It’s worth it.
Those are the two outline killers I can think of right now. If you have any, please feel free to share.