What is your method of writing a story?
I don’t know how much interest fans have about how I write or if they do it’s surface interest only. Most interested are other writers because they’re trying to find their way around. This is where we get into the plotter/pantser discussion. Does one outline or just sit down with a few opening sentences and start writing and let the story take the author where it goes?
I read an article concerning Rex Stout and his method. Family would see him walking outside, around the house or the yard, plotting out his next Nero Wolfe story. Then he would come in write one draft and except for minor changes, that would be it. I mentioned Jeffrey Deaver in a previous blog and he told of how he spends a couple months outlining his books. Maybe 160 pages worth. When it comes to the actual writing, most of it is done. All he’s doing is filling in the spaces.
I have heard writers who sit down and write with no apparent plan, but I believe one of two things happen. Either the story falls apart and goes nowhere because there isn’t a plan or an outline develops along the way. At some point, a direction, an outline, a timeline of events should come into play.
I’m not criticizing either method. If it works for you, go for it. I just have the mindset that pantsers don’t seem to get far without a plan. I have mentioned in previous interviews that it is like walking through a cave without a flashlight. You may have matches but striking one every so often doesn’t show you much and soon you’re wandering in the darkness again. However, if you find the light in the end and come out with a cool story, that’s alright.
I don’t work that way. Before I knew what character profiles were, I wrote one for Mallory Petersen. It seemed logical to me to put down some information I could use to develop her personality. When I set out to create a story I will spend a few days jotting down a timeline of events and scenes, figuring out the story, thinking of locales and characters, forming the story into something believable and entertaining.
I have found the biggest challenge is time. How to fill up the hours in the story. I once started reading a book for review about a murder mystery. Two cops go to the scene of the murder and do some usual things then leave. The next chapter is the next day. What? At that point I stopped reading because that didn’t make sense. It wasn’t believable that nothing else happened in the investigation the rest of the day.
So, I struggle with filling up the hours. For all of the Mallory Petersen books I’ve written both published and yet to be, I have found a pattern and it’s one I’m don’t mind, but not sure how to break, if I even wanted to. Most of the main story takes place within two or three days or even one day. For Gamma, which is in the rewrite phase and where I’m adding in extra scenes to fill out the time-and the word count, ahem!-the main story takes place in one day. With this and the others, we reach the climactic part of the story and the aftermath takes place days or weeks later. For Delta, I eat up two weeks in a few chapters, but it works.
Next week, I’ll continue with this train of thought on this method of writing interview question.