As I’ve stated in this blog on more than one occasion, I am a plotter vs. a pantser. There’s nothing wrong with being a pantser if that approach fits your writing style. (For those who don’t know, a pantser is someone who writes a story by the seat of their pants, not planning it out in detail ahead of time.) I actually did a lot of writing for many years as a pantser. I was afraid that I would lose interest in a story if I knew how everything was going to work out ahead of time. At the time, I was also more concerned about just learning the art of telling a story, learning the balance of description, internal monologue, and dialogue.
I did make one brief foray into plotting when I attempted my first fantasy novel while in high school. For that story, there were several plotlines that I was weaving while attempting to balance three different points of view. (Yeah, quite an ambitious project for a freshman in high school.) I actually finished that book a few years later and started on the sequel, but I packed it away for other projects that allowed me to be a pantser again.
When I started the Dark Days series, I moved firmly into the land of the plotter, which is where I hope I stay. Planning out a story ahead of time takes some of the stress out of the project as you always know where you are headed. What shocked me as I worked on each book of the Dark Days series was the fact that the story still held a number of surprises for me despite the fact that I knew what I was going to happen. Sometimes it came in the form of an event, a character revelation, or even a new character that I hadn’t initially planned on.
I continue to be a plotter in the new Asylum Tales series. The first book was very carefully plotted out before I even started the first chapter and had many surprises since it was an entirely new series, new world, and new characters. The second book … ahh… the second book refused to be completely plotted. When I started the book, I knew what I had to accomplish as it was tie up some problems I had created in Angel’s Ink. The problem was that I hadn’t a clue as to how I would deal with it all. In fact, for the first ten chapters, I would plot a few chapters and then write them before going back to plot a few more chapters on my outline. It was only recently when the pieces finally fell into place for me and I completed the entire outline for the book. (And I have to say that I love it!)
But a funny thing happened to Gage as he headed into Chapter 13 this weekend. He went to this restaurant looking for someone when I realized that this person wasn’t in the restaurant. Common sense said, “Delete the two pages you wrote and start over.” But to my shock, Gage put a hand on my shoulder and said, “Wait a minute. Let me look around. I think there’s something of interest here for me.”
Who did I listen to?
I trust my main character, so I listened to Gage. He ended up having a very informative and interesting conversation with some people he hadn’t talked to since Angel’s Ink. Right now, I really like the chapter and I think it will tie nicely with the end of the book. It might end up on the cutting room floor at the end, but I liked stepping outside my carefully laid plot outline for that chapter and letting Gage run on instinct. You can learn a lot about the world you’ve created and the characters you rely on when you let loose the reins every once in a while.