Lately, I've seen various blog posts and Twitter conversations on methods of writing. Most of those end up being discourses on how a writer can properly organize her story before writing with the end goal being a streamlined writing experience and the ability to produce a finished novel in a relatively short amount of time (varies by writer) with less revision necessary.
I took a peek at several of those methods and I don't mind telling you that a couple of them had me nearly in hives before I'd finished paragraph one. That doesn't mean they aren't wonderful, helpful, amazing tools for the right writer. It just means I don't write that way.
So, I thought I'd throw my hat into the ring and tell you how I organize my story before I write.
Remember the previous post? The one giving a blurb for Lilli Stone Book One? The one that had 5 paragraphs giving basic character intros and outlining the conflict and stakes?
That's what I do.
Of course, I've spent months (in this case years) with these characters in my head. Getting to know them. To know the setting. The conflict.
I have no doubt that things will shift, grow, change, and surprise me as I write but that's part of the fun for me. I fully realize another writer reading that sentence might feel as close to breaking out into hives as I did when I read someone's process involved a 14,000 word outline.
The mere thought of an outline running past, say, five paragraphs makes me want to lock myself in a loony bin.
That doesn't mean I'm not organized. Or that I'll take exponentially longer to produce a polished novel. It just means I'm wired differently than those who find a comfortable creative outlet with detailed planning before they write.
I'll tell you this: The real work of writing is revising. It really is. No matter what you do to get to those glorious two words "The End" on your first draft, you aren't done yet.
My "outline" consists of knowing what major plot points hurtle my characters from page one to The End. What happens between those plot points is a delightful surprise. I keep character arcs, emotional conflict, plot conflict, setting the scene, sensory detail...all the bits and pieces that weave together to form a cohesive story...in my head, for the most part. I jot some notes. Sometimes I can jot out a sentence or two for the next few upcoming scenes. Anything further out than that and I'm lost. I really am.
Because how can I know what happens next--what REALLY happens next--until I get there?
I guess that's the main difference between those of us who write with outlines and those of us who don't. Some of us can see what happens next before we get there and some of us need to see it happen in real time.
With all the available tools, methods, books, and advice out there, I'll only add this: Finish a book.
If you need an outline to do so, make one. If you need a story board with post-it notes, run to Staples and stock up. If you need to plow through your rough draft to find out what happens next, plant your butt in the chair and put your fingers on the keyboard.
It really doesn't matter how you get to The End as long as you get there.