One thing I learned as I transitioned from writing short pieces to longer manuscripts was that I needed to outline or structure my plot or else I would stray and lose control of the story. Without a plan, my characters wander off course. My middle sags. My plot becomes pedestrian.
I am highly “field dependent.” I need to see the whole before I can distinguish the individual components. If I know where I am going, I can map my way there.
I start off with an exciting or controversial idea – a topic, an alluring beginning, or a surprising ending, but the real creativity begins when I plan the delivery of that promise.
I don’t want to start off with Bang! … then lose steam after the first few chapters. I don’t want to wander about lost in the middle of the story, or worse yet, end it all with a disappointing, impossible, or rushed ending.
I need a plan! I need an outline!
Characters have to be cast, pertinent information has to be delivered according to genre, and scenes have to be ordered just so to keep the interest of the reader.
Without an outline, I cannot keep my characters consistent. I cannot bring them into the story at necessary times. Without an outline, I cannot keep track of time and place and how it affects the story. Without an outline, I cannot take the pulse of the plot, moving it forward at a steady and meaty pace, and then ending it with a satisfying ending.
There are those who write without an outline. They let the story or the characters “take them where they want to go.” I envy them, but according to research, there are more writers like me, the plotters, than those who write by the “seat of their pants” – the pantsers.
How do I do this?
I am also visual-tactile. (Yes, I am a complex woman.) I learn by seeing and doing, so I draw and scribble. I talk to myself a lot. I write it down and move it around. I create charts and tables. I “see” scenes and “hear” the dialogue. I write that down too. I analyze and study, and in the end, I come up with a loose outline that looks a lot like poorly written Cliff Notes. By then I have created 5 by 8 cards on each of the characters. I know their inner and outer conflicts, their idiosyncrasies, the color of their eyes. I will have positioned an enticing plot nugget into the middle of the story that will capture the readers’ interest and entices them to want to read the ending of the story.
It is only then that I start to write.