I am a seat-of-the-pants kind of author. I used to outline, then put all my scenes on individual cards, and only after that would I allow myself to start putting words to paper. It worked fine. It also stole a great deal of time from actually writing. To be fair, it did speed up the process of getting the words down, but there were always those scenes that ended up being something completely different from the original plan, necessitating changes in the subsequent outline/cards.
With my most recent book, Protector of Thristas, however, I had a few pages of notes and a minimal amount of 4×6″ cards when I began writing, and as I wrote, the notes grew and the cards stacked up until the entire story had unfolded on the page. I found this highly stimulating intellectually and creatively and decided that with the next book—my current work in progress—I would simply start writing, filling in the cards and the notes as the story evolved in my mind.
My muse has encouraged this behavior. She manipulates the characters and story like puppet shadows, allowing them to become real as they and their plot lines take full form on the page. These shadows swim around and through me while the story gains momentum, and I follow them, picking up their bits of ghostly threads to weave into the tale. The only downside to this method is that I spend half the story asking “How the heck does it end?” (Endings, after all, require setting up, and how can one set up what one doesn’t know yet?)
But here’s one thing I have learned about myself after writing four books—I always figure it out. Whatever “it” may be, the answer comes when it’s meant to come. And if the answer I get doesn’t fit the previously completed narrative, then I have to regroup, rewrite and run a little faster to catch up with the shadows who have moved on without me.
I love those shadow creatures, and I love hosting them as I tell the story as they’ve told it to me. Now, I’m not advising every writer to use this method. It’s chaotic as a box filled with kittens and twice as bloody if you let down your guard. But if you, like me, revel in the magic of that chaos, then you’ll understand how the shadows guide me.