I’m a discovery writer. I start with a character and a situation and write. Part of the fun is seeing where the road takes me.
For The Slender Man Massacre, the protagonist is based on my niece. I put her and another character in a dark alley and went from there. I knew nothing more about the story than that and the fact that the Slender Man is going to be involved.
As Chapter 1 took shape, I began to think about the next one. Now that I’m almost finished with Chapter 3, I have a solid plan up through the first half of Chapter 5. That’s where I like to be – thinking about two chapters ahead.
It’s also important, however, to know where the book is going. My collaborator and I discussed the ending early in the process. I knew the last line of the novel when I was still less than a thousand words in.
Over the next four thousand words, I put a lot of thought into the story arc. Since the word “massacre” is used in the title, I figured it would be best if there were, you know, a massacre at some point, so that plot point shaped up pretty easily. Then I determined how I was going to get from there to the end. All told, I have a rough idea of the last 7 or 8 chapters.
Now, I just have to figure out what happens for the middle 17 or so.
To me, this method is a natural and easy way to write a novel. There are, however, distinct disadvantages:
- Character and story are “discovered” as part of the process. It’s often necessary for your first chapters to go through significant rewrites to make things fit.
- You have the potential of writing yourself into a corner. Since nothing is planned, it’s hard to see that blind alley.
- You have to go back to the beginning a lot to add set up details for events that happen later.
- It can be hard to see plot deficiencies from a big picture perspective.
From a creative perspective, I’m a big believer in, “Do what works best for you.” On the other hand, part of the learning process is to try new things so you can really learn what does work best. For this reason and others, I’m going to try outlining for an upcoming project.
Shameless Plug – Tune in tomorrow for a discussion on outlining!