You know that crazy person on TV (or maybe in your life) whose office/home/room/laboratory is an absolute disaster? You walk in and have to pause because the sheer chaos makes your skin crawl?
And yet, ask them for anything, and chances are that they can reach into that mess and pull it out in a minute or less?
It makes no sense. It’s inefficient. It shouldn’t work. But for them, it does. So you go with it.
That’s my writing process.
Not really, but that’s how it feels sometimes, especially when I try to explain it to hardcore plotters. I’m what I charitably refer to as a “plotser”. I start with a concept, usually an idea for a character or a snapshot vision in my head of a scene that speaks to me for some reason. I play with it in the back of my mind for a while. I do some quick plotting, typically referring to a simplified beat sheet to make sure I have a beginning, middle and end in mind. I try to get a basic sketch of my characters done. All told, my pre-writing adds up to maybe one page of hand-written scribbles.
And then I draft.
The upside of this method of working is that I have enough structure to write the book but enough flexibility that I get to discover my characters as I go. If there weren’t any surprises, I’d get terribly bored. For me, this keeps the writing process lively and fun.
The downside is that my characters often wait until awfully late in the game to reveal some key information that I would have really liked to have had earlier. This means I have to go back and sew things in. Usually, I pause at about the 20-25k mark to reevaluate. By then some gaping hole has probably revealed itself. I notice there’s not enough conflict or that one of my characters needs a better motivation or that I don’t have a plot after all. I’m not going to pretend it’s fun to go back and fix these things, but after I’ve done it, I’m usually clear to go with drafting the rest of the book. Once the manuscript is finished, I’ll likely have to add another element or two in revisions. All the back and forth and revising used to scare me when I first started, but at this point I’ve come to accept it as just how I work.
My process is a mess. It makes no sense. It’s inefficient chaos that makes more organized people cringe.
But it works. So I trust it. I trust myself.
Just go with it.