My first serious attempt at writing a novel, I refused to outline. Why? Because I am such a highly structured person I didn't want to squish my "creative freedom." What came out that experiment was heavy on the back story and weak on scene structure. That's no good.
I set it aside for two years and when I reread it I cut the first 100 pages and began again. This time before I started the story, I did in-depth character analysis and plot construction (thank you, first round for giving me all this info). I knew then the arc of the story and some of the subplots, I was ready to go.
In theory, but in reality, all my love for the story was gone. The adventure dimmed. I already knew where it was going when I started. So I set the story aside. I let it breathe. Maybe absent would make the heart grow fonder.
In the meantime, another character tugged at my mind. So how could I find the Goldilocks spot? The next story had a three-week time frame so I put day 1 and mapped out using vague notions like, "Has a bad date" or "Went out to lunch with her mother." I paired that knowledge with how I wanted the scenes to go and let the minor characters ride the tide of the muse through my fingers.
It was great. I got what I wanted out of the characters without all the heavy plotting and if there were problems with the story I trusted myself to buff them out in the revisions. So know I use this idea of calendaring my stories with keywords or character intent and let my muse do the rest. Since I changed to this method, I've finished one book, written my first draft for another, and am two-thirds the way through the next manuscript. In my book, I consider that a win.
Moral of the story: Find what works best for you. Read books, take classes, and ask others but in the end, find your way. Then write and try out the various nuggets of wisdom to find your personalized style to structure.
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