I’ve never been one to plot, even a full-length novel–I’m definitely a pantser. If you haven’t heard that term before, it’s a writer who writes from the seat of their pants, basically. For some writers, having an outline or even just a structured idea helps, but I’ve never been able to do either of those things. I’ve tried to make an outline for a work of fiction, but it didn’t turn out the way I hoped and the outline was forgotten by chapter two. My characters tend to be unruly toddlers, running around screaming and doing exactly as they please.
I’ve heard many great authors say they feel as though their stories come to them as divine dictation, so uninformed they are of their story’s direction while writing it. Many authors feel the Muse is something beyond themselves, that they are just transcribing what the Universe, or God, or some Higher Power is commanding them to write. I suppose it comes down to faith. You can say the words come from beyond or from within, but regardless of belief most authors know the Muse works in mysterious ways.
Sometimes I find myself not knowing how to work a plot point out, except believing I have to keep writing to unravel the knot. This has worked so many times I can’t believe it’s just chance or luck. The creative process works best when being exercised. Like any muscle, the more you use it, the stronger it becomes. If you hit a block the best way to bust through it is to punch that wall until you make a hole. Sitting around staring at it certainly won’t make it dissolve.
I can plan my stories to a certain point, and even have some goal to work toward, but the truth of the tale comes in the writing. The more I write, the more I understand what’s going on. Likewise, the more I write the more I understand the characters. Understanding the characters is all you need to move a story along. After all, people move the stories of their lives forward in reality, so why should it be different in fiction?
I wouldn’t give up the feeling of being ‘commanded from beyond’ for anything in the world. I don’t want to know the ending until I get there. I feel like the reader instead of the writer. It’s a magical experience, whether a spiritual blessing or simply a mental process that gets activated the more you work on it.
How about you? Do you work from the hip, or do you like to plan it out? I’m interested to hear your take on the writer’s magic!