For the most part, I tend to be a gardener when it comes to writing. I scatter seeds all over the place, then take notes on what grows and write the story that way. As opposed to an architect, who plans out everything in advance, to whatever detail they feel comfortable with.
There are some novels that refuse to be planned out. The first five novels I’m publishing next year are all “Garden” stories – no outline, writing into complete darkness, no idea how the stories are going to end, what happens next.
I honestly love writing stories that way. It’s exciting to me.
However, the current novel series wants some plotting. I’m not sure why. I know why I have to plot out some novels, particularly deep and immersive stories. I need to know where I’m going so I can spend time on the world details and not worry about the plot.
That doesn’t doesn’t feel right for this novel series. There’s some other reason. I’ll eventually figure it out.
The outline, when I get around to writing it, won’t be that detailed. It might end up being 1000 words for a four book series. But writer brain really needs that in order to move forward. (And I do understand that I need to figure out some things because I’ve been poking at them and they’re just not right yet.)
For doing the outline, I’m going to fall back on a trick that works for me. I will take myself to a coffee shop, get way overly-caffeinated, then brainstorm on paper, not on the computer. Afterward, I’ll type up the notes and arrange them into something more coherent.
I’ve been writing a lot of short fiction recently, writing a story a day in some cases. These are not long stories. Most of them are between 2-4000 words. I finished 8 of them in 10 days. I’ve started the next story, but it’s a much longer story in a different world. It’s going to take a few days to finish. Currently, it feels like a 14K word story.
The story is one of the Alvin Goodfellow stories – 1930s pulp detective set on the moon. With ray guns and green women from Venus and hearty warriors from the caves of Mars and mutants who live under Luna City and … You get the picture. This is the third so far in the Alvin stories, and I kinda sorta have two more planned. They’re just way too much fun. LOTS of voice and weird details.
Generally, for short fiction, I know where the ending is before I start. Some of those stories were written into complete darkness. Most of them I knew where I was going before I started. Not how to get there, but where the ending would be.
With the current story, I know exactly what the end is. Don’t quite know how I’ll get there. It will be a lovely ride along the way, though.
And this is something I think writers need to hear: Don’t be rigid in your approach to a story. Maybe you architect everything all the time and that’s right for you. But there might be a story that refuses to be discovered anywhere but on the page. Or maybe you always write into darkness, but this one story needs dimly lit hallways instead.
Be flexible. Listen to YOUR story and come up with the process that works for THAT story.
I’ve written 44 novels to date. I have a pretty good idea when it’s the story and not critical voice that’s telling me to plan things out. You may need some practice figuring out what works for you. That’s okay. Take the time to work out your process. Just don’t be surprised if that process changes.
I would say that I’m 80% gardener, 20% architect. What’s your percentage? Could be for any art, not just writing.