You know, clearly every author works differently. We all have our own ways of bringing our stories to life. Some like to wing it. Let the story direct itself, with the author being the vehicle. Way back when, during my first attempt to write a novel, I took that path of winging it, and about eight chapters in, found myself absolutely lost. I literally hit the proverbial brick wall, and eventually realized there was no story there. So I abandoned the whole project, set aside my computer, and decided to really get to know the writing life; being a writer since I was a kid, with poems and short stories, I'd never delved into writing an entire book before.
My hubby and I (he's also a writer) often talk about writing, stories, characters; we can literally talk about it for hours on end. He's the one who showed me the value in that little thing called an outline. I'd never considered doing one before. So, when I sat down to write that story that went nowhere, I did it without a plan. How could this happen, I asked myself. I mean, I had started this because I'd heard the voices of my characters in my head, and not in the "Yum, tasty Checkers," sort of way. I was absolutely stumped, and beyond frustrated.
My big mistake was thinking that wanting to write was enough. See, for me, what I learned in an utterly frustrating and most Rogaine-inspired way was that without a plan, there's little to no follow through, and if the end does come, it'll be through a crap load of blood, sweat, tears, broken plates, many collectibles lost in the battle to break through that brick wall I'd hit, and a sudden need to find a hat big enough to cover the bald spots born during this so-called creative process.
Well, when I started working on the Thorne series, I fell so deeply in love with the story and the characters. I mean, I really wanted to do it (and them) justice. So, I took the time (a year, to be precise) to plan everything from the entire series, the characters (and their arcs), to the city, the world, the magic, the history. Hell, I even created stores, shops, shop owners, employees, and all their back-stories, just to really and truly bring this world to life. Then I plotted out all the books, so when I was ready to start writing the first book, I wouldn't fall into that same pit of "give me something to break". When I was done with the outline, the story pretty much wrote itself.
And therein lies the problem some authors see with outlines. Personally, I prefer this method, but like I said, we all need to find our own way of doing things. There are authors who say outlines ruin the process because it deprives them of surprises during the writing process. But, from what I've seen, those authors can sometimes find themselves stuck. Those are the authors who sometimes say they don't know how the story will end, what will happen in the book, or where they're taking it. And that's fine, if it works for them. I personally don't like staring at a blank screen, begging for something to strike. I love sitting around, thinking about the story, picturing it in my head like a movie, hearing the characters talk to each other, and especially those major epiphany-laden "AHA" moments when I unravel a plot point that I'm trying to make as powerful as possible. Authors who plan things out are the ones who can sit down with someone and talk about their work-in-progress.....simply because they know what they're doing with it.
Again, I'm not remotely saying one way is better than another for everyone. It's just the way it works best for me. So, what's your favorite method of writing? Are you a planner or a winger?