So … on any normal occasion, I can’t glorify the benefits of having a sound plot outline before starting a new project. Such benefits should be obvious; channeling numerous and varied ideas into a coherent structure, having a sound knowledge of the plot direction and pacing, and having a thorough understanding of the project’s cast of characters.
Therefore, I doubt anybody could be more surprised than I was when I jumped headfirst into a new project without doing any of the aforementioned things.
I don’t tend to outline the short stories that I write, the main reason being I begin writing them with every intention of seeing where, exactly, they might take me; the term ‘short story’ may even be incorrect considering most are quick writing exercises to make sure I keep up the habit, not that that always goes according to plan. I have fun with them. I start with an idea and let that lead me on, allow the characters to adapt to the situation that is, essentially, dictated by the first line of the story in most cases.
Perhaps it is this, then, that had led to a new, slightly foreign, habit of mine. Perhaps it is because I’ve chosen to write at a much slower pace than usual, too, and that I don’t feel as much of a need to have some … slightly more polished thoughts at hand this time because it’s something I’m focusing on more as I write. Perhaps it is the fact that I have, essentially, written this story before, albeit with a different protagonist, a different antagonist, and a slightly different chain of events but when push comes to shove, the basic motivations of my characters remain the same. Some of the concepts are more believable, and the narrative viewpoint has changed, but the intention was always to take something I wasn’t so pleased with and rework it into something I’m at least halfway proud to put my … pseudonym on.
So for all I’ve said in the past on various forums about having a concrete plot outline, I can say just as much for not having one. I lost faith in this after my first year of NaNoWriMo; the resultant story was a mess, something I had wanted to put into action for a long time, but once I did, I handled badly and didn’t particularly want to look at it when the month was over. I still consider it irredeemable. There are a multitude of reasons why this is so, which I won’t bore you with.
I don’t feel quite so restrained to taking my story in a particular direction, said direction being the one I already set for myself perhaps a few weeks or days prior. I had thought I might actually feel quite lost without anything to refer back to; no doubt once I get past maybe chapter three or four and things start to spiral a little more out of my control than I might like, I’ll get back to the drawing board with the outline, but by this point I think it might become something that is beyond me. All or nothing, if you will. Either I outline before I start writing, or not at all.
And who is to say where this will lead anyway? Most likely to the middle of a story that will be mercifully abandoned in the near future, forever damned to the depths of my ‘Writings’ folder, which in itself is a hellish place to be. It’s a kind of limbo between the story graveyard and the projects that came to life; anything that is still stuck there and hasn’t already been relocated to its own folder will most likely remain there for ever more and may never see the light of day again. Inadvertently, by writing this, I have probably assured that they will. I’m curios to see what I left there.
At this point in time, I can’t fully grasp what I would really need to put into the outline for this project; the most I have is a few bullet points written after harnessing the setting of the first chapter, brief things like ‘the detective’, ‘the shrink’ and ‘the tapes’ – I know what they mean, and this should suffice. The character work was mostly already done. I’ll start giving people heart attacks if I mention Jannah one more time, I’m sure, so none of that. Suffice to say, however, I look upon this more as breathing new life to characters I can’t abandon rather than recycling them; their first less-than-stellar outing, while not quite being tossed into novel limbo, is in a file that I very much doubt I will touch again for quite some time. It’s not a failure, but I’ve already shown myself what it could be, had I gone in a different direction … a direction I probably wasn’t ready to take when I first wrote it.
In conclusion? I’m not plotting. Actually, I very much refuse to until things start going awry. For once, I’m giving myself the benefit of the doubt.