A freelance editor once told me that in the world of writers there are plotters and there are free stylists. Plotters start with an outline in hand, marching through prose and dialogue until they arrive at an ending conceived on a whiteboard or napkin long before. Free stylists– that’s me– start with a character (if they’re lucky) or a sentence (if they’re not), and are as shocked as their readers will some day be by what happens. I once posted, “My character is making a terrible choice; I can’t believe I’m letting it happen. Hope there’s no such thing as character karma.” For me, that’s how it goes down. I get to know these people– their strengths, their weaknesses, their predilections– and then conflict presents itself.
I’m not a martyr. I WISH I COULD PLOT. I want to. I tried desperately to follow that path with my second book. I don’t consider it cheating or even corner-cutting; I’m just unable to get scenes on paper when I already know how it plays out. It’s as if my inner muse loses interest. So, instead, I take the hardest possible route: writing to find the story, then cutting to pace it.
Last year I attached a sail to a new character and eventually found my next novel, WHATEVER HAPPENED TO LUCY BISCARO?, about a woman whose past keeps meddling with her future. It went to my editor a month ago. We met in New York last week to discuss the revision. I received an A on the writing and characters, but a B- on pacing. Lucy has a happy home at St. Martin’s Press just as soon as I get her to the ending faster. This time, publishing’s pace will work in my favor. Readers won’t meet Lucy until February 2018, so I have time to build her up.
Other writers: are you a plotter or a free stylist? A hybrid, perhaps? Tips to share?
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