Eventually I took great heart when I heard of the successful writer who had said they never knew how their books were going to turn out.
In the past my projects were littered with many notes mapping out how a book was supposed to go, insofar as how they started, what happened in the middle(ish) and how they ended; there were even these vainglorious attempts at structure chapter by chapter. Never was any plan adhered to, within the first few pages characters went veering off on their own directions, new folk appeared and locations moved with a verve you can sometimes get away in fantasy novels by leaning heavily on the rules you have created.
Initially on hearing of this successful author there was the plaintive question… (no truth be known that’s glossing….take 2- brutal truth)…whine ‘But why not mine…Not fair!!! (sulk, sulk, sulk).
On some reflection it gradually dawned on me you might not know how something is going to turn out, but the journey has to have a structure. Eventually the notion is seeping in of the urge to write itself being insufficient to reaching a goal. Charging off into the dark with a cry of ‘Huzzah!’ may appear spectacular but the likelihood of actually getting anywhere is slim. Some sort of plan is required.
So how does not knowing, square with having a plan? To each their own. For me this translates into looking for and now following the light ahead. The story has a starting point and there are several characters with their motivations. Now just how would they logically meet and react?
This process may be painfully basic and obvious, but as you know (sigh) there are lots of us out there creating contrived situations with all the subtly of hammering jigsaw bits into places we think they should fit while having characters lurching emotionally in all directions and making exceptionally grandiose leaps of logic or being so dense as to make the reader wonder if they can open a door without assistance.
Thus every action must have a reaction; ripples in the pond, how will this affect characters, and how will their reactions affect and so forth?
This is therefore the adventure, setting off heading for the one light, getting there and then peering ahead for the next light or maybe there will be a small series of lights. These are the reactions and the developments, which make sense in the context of the writing. So no more dashing off to include a chunk of ‘business’ just because it sounds fun, or because there are ‘issues’ I want to get off of my chest (unless of course they were the motivation at the very beginning of the tale).
Yes it is a journey in the dark, but there never is true dark, there are always shades and illuminations. Time to look out for them and follow them at a steady and sure pace.
Oh yes, and watch out for those holes