An experiment gone right


I think I have about a chapter and a half to go on DEMON HUNTS, 5th in the Walker Papers series. It is getting ever-slower. I have reached the Novelist’s Event Horizon. I’m coming to the conclusion that the last five chapters or so of any book is my least favorite part of writing it. For years now I’ve been skipping ahead and writing the last scene, and I now suspect that this is because I just want to get it over with and have some vague (if desperately wrong) hope that if I write the last scene the rest of it will all magically fall into place.

It doesn’t, of course, but hope springs eternal.

I did something different with this book, after a discussion at here about plotting vs pantsing. It struck me that the books that have gone the most smoothly–noteably THE QUEEN’S BASTARD and THE PRETENDER’S CROWN, which are flipping huge books–had, for their size, very detailed outlines. Now, I’ve always thought of myself as a pantser who only plots so far as it’s necessary to sell a book, but having thought about this, I decided to run an experiment. I wrote five pages of single-spaced notes for DEMON HUNTS in addition to the synopsis I’d used to sell the book.

My typical writing pattern is to hit the 1/3rd mark and a wall, back up, fix mistakes, charge forward to the 2/3rds mark, hit a wall, back up, fix mistakes, finish the book.

I made one mistake in this book (at least as far as I can tell. I’m sure my editor will find more.). It was of such colossal nature that I wrote myself into a corner within 1500 words and had to fix it. That was…halfway through? Or so. Otherwise, really, this has gone incredibly smoothly. A survey sample of one is too small to really tell, but I’m clearly going to have to try this method again on the next book, because if I’ve found a way to take some of the pain out of putting a novel together, I want *on* that bandwagon.

So this is a thank-you to Magical Words, which has unexpectedly benefited *me* with its discussions! Thank you all very much for providing a forum and questions and ideas which made me challenge my own process. I quite genuinely wouldn’t have done this without you!


6 comments to An experiment gone right

  • If outlining can help keep the creative flow going and reduce revisions, perhaps it isn’t so bad after all. It seems to get a bum rap on the street though.

    Thanks for sharing. See you at word wars.

  • First of all, yay, Catie, for being on the verge of finishing yet another book. I am in awe of your rate of production. You rock. Second, cool post. I have moved away from detailed outlines gradually over the years, but I still do outline some and I think I’d be lost without at least some written guide to each novel. So welcome to the ranks of the Plotters! Hope it continues to work for you.

  • Wow, a pantser converted to a plotter? Maybe I will have to give plotting a try as well. Great post – it’s wonderful to hear from the writer deep in the middle of the process, while the reflections are fresh and the insights sharp. Thanks again for Magcial Words, all of you! : )

  • Yay for outlines! Go plotters! And grats on being nearly done with your draft. Wish I could say that. I’ve actually started my next novel without plotting out the entire thing first. I had beginning, middle, and end, with some general “first this will happen, then that will happen.” Mostly this was because I was so jazzed to have finally wrapped my mind around a story that worked for a dream I had over a year ago, that I needed to at least begin to write it. Things keep churning though, and I’ve now got chapters plotted out to the halfway point. I imagine by the time I hit halfway I’ll know how the rest goes. At the moment I’m stuck finding a NYC neighborhood known for drugs and prostitution. Anyone got any info on that one?

  • Tom

    Excellent, the Plotters Guild’s evil plot to lure you away from those panzy pantsers has worked. Bwahahahaha. But we knew it would work, we plotted it all out ahead of time. Duh. LOL

    Congrats on your success.

  • Good on you, Catie!
    Glad it worked. I have no idea how you keep up with all the plot lines in your books *without* a huge outline. I couldn’t!