So if you’ve read my last post, you know that I strongly recommend outlining, especially if you want to keep a steady momentum and keep a short deadline. But the truth is, I don’t always take my own advice. I would like to, because when I have outlined my first draft comes easier and is much cleaner.
But stories don’t always work the way you want them to and this is the case with my current project.
A first chapter I wrote way back before I even had children sprang to life last winter, lurching out of the obscure recesses of my hard drive and demanding attention. I wasn’t quite sure where it wanted to go, but the feeling of it began to become clear to me and the characters started speaking.
One late night when I had to go to bed but was reluctant to leave it, I put together a working outline of where I wanted it to go when I picked it up the next night. And the next night, it went in a completely different direction.
I wrote a looser outline of how the story would end, leaving plenty of room for unexpected twists.
When I consulted it next time I hit a lull, I was completely off course.
This story wanted to remain a mystery to me. Writing it was like navigating a heavy fog. I could only see what was going to happen when it was right in front of me.
Some ideas stuck. Some twists I came up with at the beginning remain, waiting for their big reveals. The characters who popped out at the beginning have claimed the personalities that they presented with. But the story, insists on being written by the seat of my pants.
To be honest it’s kind of a mess. But it’s also pretty exciting. I’m still not sure who the villain is. I’m still not sure how the anti-hero will prevail. Or if he will at all.
Seat of the pants writing is not the easiest way to write and when this manuscript is finally done I am in for a whole lot of serious editing, which is not my favorite thing to do. Writers who are dedicated to pre-plotting and outlining may abandon stories that insist on veering so wildly off course.
In my earliest novels, seat of the pants writing was the only way I worked. And those novels are unlikely to ever see the light of day again, but some surprising and exciting ideas and plots came out of them, and this will be the case for my newest work as well. Only this time, I think (or hope) I have learned enough to be able to clean this up into something awesome.
There is no wrong way to write a book, except not to do it at all. A story will tell you how it wants to be written, whether it’s with disciplined pre-plotting or complete chaos. If you let it call the shots in the first draft, it will take the pressure off of you and will actually make the experience of writing it pretty fun.
Tell me what you think. Are you a pantser or a plotter? Have you have had an unruly story that just insisted on going it’s own way?