Last year I had the privilege of hearing Elizabeth Kostova, author of The Historian and The Swan Thieves, speak at the National Book Festival in D.C. about her personal writing process. She said that unlike some writers, she never plots too far ahead. Instead, she lets the story tell itself and trusts that all ends will fall into place eventually. While crouching on the grass in the heat, and trying not to worry about the camel cricket just inches away from me, I remember admiring her faith.
Just as this picture demonstrates, the trick for me is balancing my knowledge of the present moment with the trail I’ve got to leave behind me. It’s not easy to remember to plant nuance and clues for the reader. For the fiction writer can leave very little to chance. If you drag a toe in the sand, there needs to be a reverse action that makes sense for the reader.
Now at work on my second novel, and thoroughly enjoying the new characters and complications introduced into the familiar town of Yatesville, I still work from a rough outline. It’s at the top of my file and serves as a guidepost of where I hope to end up. Not sure that’s the best way but it works for me. It’s like my little yellow bucket of shells. It’s a catch-all for the tidbits I can’t bear to leave behind.