Lately in the conversations on my writing lists it seems there are two types of writers. Those who like to sit down at the page and just start writing words till something happens, and those who plot and do background, then write.
Are both valid methods of writing? Well, sure. There is nothing to say that the book one of those writers turns out won’t be just as good as the other’s. I do believe, however, that there will be a difference in the amount of time those books take.
There is a minimum amount of plotwork that has to be done on any story if it’s going to hang together, and have a point, and a logical series of events. You can do that plotwork before you start, or while you’re going. The trouble with doing it while you’re going is that you have to stop moving the story forward while you do it, and sometimes the things you find out while you’re doing your plot and backstory work will require changes, and sometimes flat-out removal, of things that were already written.
I’ve written both ways. The Music Mage actually started that way, just writing scenes with only a vague story concept. The characters I figured out as I introduced them, the magic surprised me as much as anyone else. But then as I kept working, and the story kept evolving, and the plot became more complex, I had to stop and do my background work. I had to figure out what exactly the rules of this magic were, what exactly the cost was to use it, what exactly the limitations were. Some things that happened way before the story itself were becoming important, and I needed to know more about exactly what they were. And when I finished, some of the stuff I found had to be worked in to the material that was already written.
It wasn’t all bad, of course. A lot of things just fell into place like puzzle pieces, even though I hadn’t consciously planned them that way. It is exciting to watch the plot develop and unfold.
Redeemer of the Realm has been totally different. After doing the last half of the first book with everything plotted out and the background done, I couldn’t see starting the new book any other way. So I did the outlining, the plot synopsis, and everything else I could think of before I started. And the book is moving faster, a lot faster.
But even doing your homework first doesn’t mean you won’t occasionally have to stop and do more. Maybe you didn’t figure out everything you needed to know, maybe there are new scenes that have occured to you that you want to work in. For whatever reason, you may still find yourself stopping at times to go back to your notes, and make new ones.
So I guess the moral is that you can’t avoid doing your homework. You can put it off, but in the end, if the book is going to make it, you’re going to have to get the dirty work done.
And so goes another lunch break…