Method or Madness?

For those that don’t know, I’m a pantser.  I start with an idea and go with it.  Most of the time, I know the prologue and the epilogue when I start writing a book.  Everything else is a surprise, sometimes a very shocking surprise.  It hasn’t always been this way.

My work shows it.  If I over plan, I get bogged down trying to get to the important stuff, for an example, read Dark Cotillion.  I plotted the hell out of that novel.  I knew everything that was supposed to happen and when… as a result, there’s a lot of filler.  I also plotted Tortured Dreams within an inch of its life.  In my opinion, both books are the weakest in their respective series.

When it came time to write Dark Illumination, I was just shocked that people actually wanted a sequel.  I sort of knew what I wanted.  I had a beginning and an end.  It was a much better book.  The same was true of Dark Resurrections.  Then came Dark Legacies, the final one.  I knew how it began, but I wasn’t sure how I wanted to end the series.  Did I kill the bad guy and let everyone live happily ever after?  Did I alter the rules of the universe or adhere to them like double-sided tape?  I didn’t know.  I had a beginning.  I sat down and started writing and I think the last one is the strongest in the series.

Flipping over now to Dreams & Reality series, I had some problems with Elysium and Mercurial.  Once again, I was busy plotting things out.  I had a timeline, an outline, and there was a lot of “filler.”  Not as much as Tortured, but still a lot.  This made them both a little dry in spots.  Then it was time for Explosive Dreams.  I had actually intended to write Plagued Dreams next.  Explosive wasn’t even on the list of book ideas.  However, as I sat in the grandstands, watching people wither in the heat as they moved tiredly from ride to ride while the entire carnival looked sad and pathetic because it was mostly deserted, I decided to start blowing up carnivals.  We were at the campground that weekend and after the truck and tractor pull, we returned to our camper.  My SO went to bed alone as I hammered out the first three chapters in under two hours.  Exhausted, I went to bed.  The sniper hadn’t been born yet.  I had no idea how the book would end, but I had three chapters, three good chapters and ideas for many more.

The more I wrote on it, the more I realized I didn’t have an ending.  I didn’t know how they were going to catch the bomber.  I didn’t know who the sniper was when the character first appeared… I knew he’d be important at a later date, but I didn’t know why.  Now that it’s finished, I can honestly say, I’m glad I didn’t have those details.  I’m glad they came to me as the book unfolded.  Until I re-read it, Elysium Dreams was my favorite, but as I re-read Explosive Dreams, I realized the book was better… and I mean a whole lot better.

Now, I realize that if I over plot, I ruin the book.  I’m too busy trying to get to the action to think about the “filler.”  The filler becomes unnatural and boring, interrupting the flow of the book.  Some call it madness to not plot a book out more than the first chapter, but for me, it’s a method.  I’m a linear writer, so the details come as my fingers move and my ideas flow, not as I rush from plot point to plot point.  Never be ashamed to admit that you don’t actually know what’s going to happen in your book.  For some writers, it’s better that way.

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