I guess I’m a lot like McGovvy in my process—a plotser describes me best. The funny thing is, I always considered myself a plotter, but in reality, my outline ends up being far more guideline than gospel. Also like our fearless McGovvy, characters are one of my strong points. An idea for a story usually begins as an idea for a character, or in some instances, a physical setting.
The actual story structure is harder for me. My outline serves as what I think will happen from start to finish, but it sort of gets hijacked along the way by new ideas as the characters take on more layers to their personalities, new possibilities emerge and I chase those bunnies like Alice into Wonderland! Another note about my outline: it’s not exhaustive. I tried the First Draft in 30 Days book and approach, but it felt counterproductive to have an outline so detailed that it could be seen as a complete first draft. Once I got my basic plan fleshed out, my fingers were itching to begin the “real” writing. I’ve also tried scene summaries: the general gist of what happens scene by scene. Our own E. Michels originally gave me this idea. It’s great for getting unstuck—if you are not feeling a particular scene, just jump to one that better fits the old frame of mind. But again, more often than not, the summary is a loose interpretation of what ends up being written.
One of the best things I got out of using First Draft in 30 days is the character sketches. One of the first assignments in the book is to do detailed character sketches for each player. This helps with the basic details you don’t want to forget (not good to have a character’s eye color change mid-book, unless said character is a vampire and the change is related to consumption of human blood, but I digress). It’s also useful for all the massive amounts of information: likes, dislikes, baggage, family history, astrological sign, etc., that quickly snowballs as your characters develop. This part is hella fun for me. It feeds my back story compulsion without cluttering up my actual manuscript—or it ought to in theory, at least.
Another thing I do is to keep a spiral notebook near me most of the time. If I’m really into a story, a great piece of dialogue or a plot thread can come to me in the midst of the daily grind. Having gotten it down helps me work faster when I actually get some precious writing time. It also makes you look diligent while plotting during work meetings J
So yeah, I’m a plotser, too. My outline is a suggested guideline, sort of like the speed limit on an interstate. I need it to keep me focused and to assure me that I do know where I’m going, but I leave the how of getting there a little more open.
After finally hitting The End, editing is almost like play time for me. One of my biggest problems as a writer is compulsive editing. A lot of times it hinders me from moving forward, and that is why my output is… shall we say…sparse? Once I have a finished draft, the editing is like problem-solving. One of the most useful things I do re: editing is to read everything out loud. It’s amazing how things I would have totally missed on the page or screen jump out when I say them. It’s also great for those nebulous “this doesn’t sound quite right” sentences.
Then, of course, my invaluable critique partners come into play. If something is weak, one of my Girlz will catch it—and the vast majority of the time, I know their advice is right on. From there, it’s just lather, rinse, repeat as necessary. Et voila: the bunny becomes a book!