36,000 words in. Progress is progressing. Some days it flows out of me like lightning from Palpatine’s fingers, sometimes it flows like granite embedded in diamond. Usually it’s somewhere in between.
In this post, I’m going to write about something I have very little expertise in — which you can expect from most of my posts going forward. If only I wrote about things I’m an expert at, I’d write one post every decade.
There are two main ways to write a book. The first way is to come up with an outline of a story, then write scenes that follow the outline. The second way is to come up with interesting characters (+ interesting setting = bonus points), then to just start writing and have a plot come about on its own.
There are pros and cons to both methods.
If you have a great outline, it will be difficult to get stuck, because you always know where you’re going. Sure, some transitions between scenes may be awkward, but that’s what editing is for. However, interesting characters don’t naturally form based on an outline. You may have an exciting set of events, but if the characters enacting the events aren’t memorable, it won’t be fun to read.
On the other hand, if you have a bunch of really great characters with conflicting motivations and just start writing, it’s likely something interesting is going to happen. But you may get stuck at some point and have to stare at the screen for a while. You’ll probably need to just write some real garbage at that point — try to come up with 5 different ways it could go, and pick the most interesting. Or maybe you need to backtrack a bit, delete your last chapter, try a different set of actions starting a chapter ago.
But I can only speculate on that — this is my first book, and I’m going the outline route. I’ve outlined the vast majority of the scenes in the first book, as well as many of the major events for the second and third books. I’m sure a lot of things will change in the second and third books' outlines after I finish the first book, but it was important to me that I knew generally how the saga would end before finishing the first book.
Anyway, if I write a second series, I’d like to try the character-based method. From what I’ve seen so far, the outline method front-loads lots of the frustration of figuring out what should happen, so when I’m writing it’s usually not exceedingly difficult. Frustration would probably be more spread-out with the character method, but it could also be fun to come to a conclusion that I didn’t expect, to be surprised by the events just like a reader would be.