Any method of writing is valid if it produces something worth reading.
I am a writer who outlines meticulously. But I do know that all of the different methods can work really well for the type of writer that they suit. Call it what you will - pantsing versus plotting, freewriting versus crafted writing, plus the third option (a bit of both: start with the beginning and end in mind, freewrite until you get stuck then plot your way out of it) - all these methods work somewhere for someone. Once you've figured out how you need to write to suit your personality, you've got it made. And when you do reach that point, do not let the so-called pros convince you that you're doing it wrong.
Stephen King has said some nasty things in the past about writers who outline before they write. He's softened his tone, though, in the last twenty years. But I'm going to poke back, anyway, with the comment that many of Stephen King's books could have done with some plotting - Dreamcatcher and the Dark Tower series come to mind. These books could have been really clever with a bit of hindsight. Mr King is in too much of a hurry to publish. But then, aren't we all?
I hope he gets a chance to reconsider his anti-plotting stance. I know it's not for him, but there are really good writers who plot. Everyone is different, and different is good.
Seriously - this is really a case of semantics. What Stephen King does in 3 months pounding out a first draft, I tend to do for a similar time period in my head. I like it in my head. Stephen likes it down in black and white.
I just know that when I'm plotting my soul sings. When I write what I've plotted it's like watching bread bake - it wouldn't rise (for me) without all the hours of kneading and waiting beforehand. Perhaps Stephen King uses baking powder, requiring speed of mixing and a rush to the oven before the chemical reaction dissipates.
I prefer to weave layer upon layer of plot threads and tighten them all in the first and subsequent drafts. But I would never tell another writer that this is the only way to write. I would certainly not tell him he is a dullard and his writing is weak without even having read his work. It's a silly presumption to make.
The only point I will make is that any manuscript needs work after the initial writing is completed. Without wanting to generalise too much, I believe that craft writers are more willing and prepared to put in this editorial work. Freewriters can very easily get caught up in the ease with which the manuscript is produced and come to dislike the tedium of editing and rewriting, or even basic proofreading. And you can't expect that your publisher will be able to provide you with an editor to fix any errors that you haven't caught yourself.
So, do I have to have every word lined up before I start writing? No, of course not. So much still surprises me, no matter how tightly I've plotted. I certainly don't need to know every word, and I've easily changed endings and let the characters run with new plot threads. It's a balance between knowing where you're going and knowing when to let go and let the story happen.
Over-plotting can box your characters in, making them behave like puppets with no life of their own. You do need to know when to trust the story, but that's the easy part: your characters tell you.
|Elle Carter Neal is the author of Madison Lane and the Wand of Rasputin, due out in 2014. She is based in Melbourne, Australia. Find her at ElleCarterNeal.com or HearWriteNow.com|