Did you all know that? And I’m not talking to the writers who can plot out the beginning middle and end of three books and know what’s happening in the fourth before they even start the first. JR, if you’re reading this… you suck, darlin 😉
I’ve been working on the first Veil book and I’ve actually managed to write out something that even my high school English teacher would admit was an outline. Maybe a very rough, nearly illegible outline, making sense only in my mind, but we won’t be picky.
The first story I can remember writing was a 30 page, handwritten pseudo-horror thing that I wrote in Mr. King’s history class. It was called Dark Alley. I vaguely recall giving it to a friend to read and she never gave it back. But I was pretty proud of myself. I’d rewritten endings before(hey, I was a kid!), started my own ideas but never finished them. This one was all mine and I finished it.
Since then, I’ve written more stories than I could possibly count. I have a huge stack of old wirebound notebooks full of stories that I can’t throw away even though I can barely read the purple ink (what was I thinking) because somewhere in that crappy writing, there are the possibilities of some decent stories. Probably twenty or more.
I’ve published more than thirty various books, novellas and short stories since I was first published three years ago.
And with the expection of maybe five books, all of them were written without much plotting at all. No synopsis. No outline. Nada. The only ending I was certain of was that Hero and Heroine Will Live Happily Ever After. How I was going to get there was a mystery to me. Plotting something out was an alien idea. I mean, what I was doing worked, right?
Yep. It worked. But it also wasted a lot of time. In 2005, I had my first full length book that I was scheduled to turn into my editor by August 1 of that year. In April, I had about 200 pages and I was moving along okay. Then the story stalled. In May, I had a miscarriage and I didn’t write most of that month. I shut down. I didn’t want to write. I didn’t want to do anything but hold my two babies and grieve over the one I’d lost.
Then June rolls around and I sit down and open my laptop. I still didn’t want to write. But I had this stalled story that was due in less than two months. I didn’t want to write, but I’d signed a contract, received a part of my advance and I had two kids that I have to provide for. So I made myself look through it. And I saw why it wasn’t working. So I trashed all but 80 pages. 80, out of 200. It was due in less than six weeks and I wasn’t even half way done.
I finished it on time, after panicking, freaking and emailing my agent a million times to let her know I might not meet deadline. Bless her heart, she dealt with me and my anxiety attacks and told me to relax. She’d email the editor and let her know and everything would be fine. In the short run, it was. I finished the book. It kept my mind off what had happened, actually, until a little more time had passed and I could look back without breaking down each time I thought of the baby we’d lost. And in the fall, we got pregnant again. It still hurts thinking of the baby, but if I’d carried her full term, then we wouldn’t have had the precious girl we have now. Just goes to show how God can take with one hand, but give something else with the other.
But this thing of scrapping more than half a book wasn’t new to me. I’d done it before. It wasted a lot of time. I’ve said a million times that I’m not a plotter. I write by the seat of my pants and I don’t want to change. But the way I was writing wasn’t productive. I wasted so much time because I didn’t sit down and try to think my way through the twists and turns of the story. I could have used that time to write an ebook for one of my various publishers. Used it to read more. It just wasn’t cutting it.
One of my fave sites is PBW‘s blog (aka Lynn Viehl/SL Viehl). She offers a lot of advice on plotting and writing in general. A few years ago, before I even considered trying to plot, Toni Blake gave a great workshop at a local RWA chapter meeting. Even though I knew plotting just wasn’t for me, I took a few notes. Going back and forth between Toni’s advice, PBW’s advice and winging it, I developed some sort of system. Using that system, I finished a full length book, Hunter’s Salvation. It took a couple of false starts, but once it started flowing, it worked.
I’m working on Veil, the first of what might be a new series and I’m plotting out by using a scene outline. Each major scene briefly outlined in order. And you know what? For the first time, ever, I actually know a little more than just Hero and Heroine Will Live Happily Ever After. I know how they are going to get there.