At the end of 2013, I started a novel, wrote the first 45% in a blaze of clattering keys – then shelved it for a year. Real Life and Study got in the way of things, and just when I pulled my nose out of the books, a couple of opportunities to write commissioned short pieces landed on my desk. Once those were squared away, I got back into my novel (empty earth thriller yet to be named).
The best news is, it’s falling out of my head just as quickly as when I first started it, which tells me the idea holds water. Early on, I’d cobbled together a thorough outline, detailing what each chapter would do to contribute to the story arc as a whole…
…which I’ve already started deviating from. I’ve changed horses midstream, and you know what? It’s okay.
No plan survives contact with the enemy. In this case, the enemy is my squirrelly writer hind-brain, which churns and burps out words into my fingers, which I then type with and wait a minute I’ve said too much.
Anyhow, I can’t think of a time when I’ve been 100% faithful to my outlines, even while the 1st draft word vomit is splattering all over the page. Safe to say, I’m probably not alone here – author Fiona McIntosh is also a notorious pantser, whose planning of her fantasy works involved a synopsis/outline she rarely kept to, a rough world map, and an idea of which famous actor resembled which of her characters.
She would then proceed to write some of the greatest page-turning works I’ve encountered. The Quickening books honestly kept me up into the small hours, despite the fact that they were pantsers of the highest order.
I’d like to think of my outlines as a plan – and the beauty of plans is that if Plan A isn’t working, there is a Plan B, Plan C etc. In my own process, it works best to let that writer goblin trapped in my subconscious write what flows best – keeps it interesting, and keeps the story itself honest. If that means my writer goblin pisses all over my intended finish line, hey, I’m cool with that.
“Well, of course the Space Goats are going to form an alliance with the Tin Can Cartel. They’ve both been attacked by the Shenanigans Society, and their differences aren’t that hard to overcome in the face of a shared enemy.” - Jason’s Writer Goblin, about 2 in the morning.
So if anyone wants me, I’ll be standing over this half-finished idea, watching my word-vomit fall upon it in a pleasing manner.