I’m a plotter. Like a serious plotter. I write up character maps (I literally figure out their personality types with the help of the Enneagram and Myers Briggs), a historical outline, and a scene outline. I create a waste document and a bibliography. I know, I know. I may be a little bit of an overachiever, but without these tools, I feel adrift on a sea of words.
But I’ll tell you a secret. I often stray from the map. That’s when I find some of my most incredible discoveries; discoveries that are world-changing for my characters, thus, my books. Because despite my planning, I’m an adventurer deep down. I love taking risks–that leap of faith into the void to see what will happen.
I’m learning in this publishing process, writers aren’t so different from iconic explorers of yore. We love adventure—though we experience it on the page—and we will always be seeking new, uncharted territory. New exciting lands, new characters that challenge us to dive into our emotional well, new plot threads that weave through the body like rivers.
There are lots of unknowns in the writing process. With new territory come the inevitable questions:
Is my character sympathetic?
Is there conflict on every page?
Did I pull all of the plot threads together?
Will this book sell?
Will people like it?
These questions we can count on like a constellation map—they crop up book after book, night after night. To challenge us, to propel us forward on our journey, and to help us SAY SOMETHING MEANINGFUL. So despite the vast and frightening undiscovered territories before us, we can count on our yearning to “go there”, even when it’s hard. For we have many tools and, more importantly, writer friends (ahem, my Deb girls), to guide our way. Together they propel us toward creating the best book we can and to conquering the next foreign land.
Are you a pantser or a plotter? How do you conquer your undiscovered lands?