Every writer has their own way of working their way through a novel. Some draw up detailed plans, scene by scene, including plot points and beats. Some even create collages that include pictures of their characters, locations, etc., to spark their gray cells. Others, like me, "Fog Walk". Some call us "pantsers". I prefer fog walker.

I have writer buddies who shudder when I mention the notion of fog walking. "How can you do that?" they ask. I have no idea. It just works. I usually start with an idea for an opening scene and, if I'm lucky, the closing scene. The middle is a complete mystery at this point. Then I start working on the book. Sometimes I write lineally and sometimes I do the patchwork technique, penning the scene most plaguing me at the moment. Then I have to go back and knit that all those pieces together. It's ugly, but it works for me.

I do use organizational adjuncts. I'm great with Excel spread sheets (after the first draft) that keep track of who is doing what, who knows what, and more precisely, when they're doing it. Since my stories are fitted within a specific historical time frame, I do need to pay attention to date, etc.

I recently added a 4' x 8' chalkboard to my toolkit. I use it to write out story ideas, work through complex scenes, list out questions that need to be addressed by the end of the book. There's something liberating about playing on a chalkboard. Maybe I'm a closet school teacher.

Fog walking is totally white knuckle when you're on deadline. Often it requires a lot of rewrites. For some reason, that's where I live. Might not be there in five years, but right now that white knuckle ride seems to be my thing.

So how do you plot? Or do you? Do you find the method varies depending on the book? What techniques do you use to track your story as you weave in the clues, the red herrings, and the bad guy(s)?

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Can't work with chalkboards or bulletin boards or computer generated outlines. Actually I have worked both with and without outlines. The writing is easier and faster with an outline, but it tends to be less inspired. On the other hand, plotting as you go requires major adjustments later on. I start keeping notes somewhere past midpoint.
Major adjustments. Amen. Especially when you're writing complex mysteries with a few extra subplots just for fun. I also find I do event lists, as I call them. Heroine does this, goes here, meets so and so. Not quite an outline, but a story arc for that particular character. When I do generate a synopsis before I start the book, it's pure b.s. My publisher doesn't ask for them anymore. She has only one requirement: tell me a great story.

I do love the electronic printouts. There's something reassuring about them as your plot careens into the wall. I tried sticky notes. Those were just annoying. Index cards were too clunky. Spreadsheets I can mark up and move scenes around easily, at least on paper. The chalkboard does have one side benefit: the spouse can leave me naughty notes.
I usually "fog walk". Though, for an upcoming novella, I'm going have to outline. I've tried writing it twice without a net, but it's just not gonna work out -- probably because the story takes place in 12 hours . . . pacing very important for the three plot threads.
I am the fog method. Who can tell with a first WIP, what will work and what won't? While I don't have a chalkboard, I have a large plot board with hundreds of stickies. I also write scenes as they come up, like you do, and will refer to them when the time comes to use them...or not! I also carry a voice activated recorder tucked into my bra as I drive and scare people as they pass me and I'm yammering away with a character's movements or a piece of dialog...very schizo! But this patchwork kind of this works for me, too. It gives you an element of freedom of expression this way. I don't feel so confined
I should dig out that old tape recorder. I think it's in the car. It's falling apart, but still works. I used to tape my thoughts as I zipped around, but now I'm home most of the time. I have the most sparkling bits of dialog pop into my brain, but when I go to put it on paper it's flat. Eventually I get somewhat close, but it's never as brilliant as what I first heard.

I do acknowledge that if I plotted more there would be fewer rewrites and I might be able to churn out more than one book a year. Somehow I can't do that. My books just take a year (including editorial). That's the way it is. I have readers who say they would love to see one every other month. My guess is they wouldn't, because the books would suck.

Novelas are real challenge, especially with a 12-hour window. I wish you luck, J.O. Better you than me .


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