Finding the plot

The grass is always greener.

I really admire authors who can pick up a story thread and write a complete narrative without needing to worry about where the chapter is going, where the characters are leading you, and what is going to happen next. I've pantsed a few stories, Insatiable Craving and A Friend In Need being the best examples from my current body of work, so I do have some experience. Some meaning, well, little. Everything else, and especially my longer works like Know Thine Enemy and the upcoming books from the Sinners and Saints series, have had a detailed, chapter-by-chapter outline.

Now, this isn't to say the characters necessarily behave. I've talked with a handful of authors who believe having a rigid outline prevents spontaneity, but as most authors have discovered, characters have a way of defying your plans. There is a whole scene I didn't plan in Sinners and Saints #3 that occurred because Luxi and Ira were, as siblings are wont to do, being absolute assholes to each other. Yet overall, the plot points were carefully selected, and the characters didn't throw me too many wrenches.

For the Sinners and Saints series in particular, I can't pants it. At all. In fact, for over the past year, I've sat on chapter 1 of Book 4 because I had no idea what to expect in Chapter 2. Chapter 1 was pretty well conceptualized, and while there were flashes of what was to come down the line, but overall, the book was a freaking wall.

I could work with something like that on a project that was more fun and less "this is my baby so it has to be right". A starting point is all some authors need. But with the gaps between the points filled in, I was staring at a stone wall.

And when I tried to peer through the cracks, I couldn't. There was nothing to see. Just a cold wall. And Pink Floyd's "The Trial" stuck in my head.

So what did I do? Well, nothing. I sat on it, because if the characters ain't talking, there's not much I can do but wait it out.

Except now I have three finished books, a planned five more, and eventually I want to get a move on. My personal circumstances have changed a lot since I finished writing Book 3. I now have two jobs that keep me busy, either writing commercials and other ads, blog posts, editing, reading, and so on. My time to write has gone from open to "I have 30 minutes, and go!". And when you spend the day lost in others' worlds or playing with words, sometimes the creative well dries up.

Other people spin 1000 words without batting an eye. I'm not other people. And this isn't to say I don't want to write. That's literally ALL I want to do. But putting want into action is difficult, and if the wall separating the first chapter of my book from the rest of the book remains unmoved, there's not much I can do but wait.

Recently, this had resulted in sleepless nights. When I was in my early twenties, I did the bulk of my writing between the hours off 11pm-4am, and even though adulthood forced me to adapt a mostly regular sleep schedule, I do think the creative nucleus of my brain failed to get the memo. Because why would you sleep when you have ALL THE WORDS TO WRITE? And my brain is like, "Wait, we're not done! We still gotta figure this thing out! WHAT HAPPENS AFTER CHAPTER 1, DAMMIT?!"

I don't know what changed, but sometime last week, just as I was drifting off, this happened.

The wall came down. Suddenly, I knew what was to come in Chapter 2. And though the subsequent chapters are still hazy, I also knew the major points that thread through the plot, that unite everything, that make the story stand.

I tore down that fucking wall.

Naturally, this coincided with a very busy time at work, so I haven't had much of a chance to get my outline off the ground and the book off its feet, but I no longer feel the burden of being locked within a hell of Roger Waters' making. I know where it's going, and for me, that's half the battle. The other part will be getting the words on paper, and while this will be a challenge, knowing where you're going makes starting the journey a little less daunting.

I can't help but be a plotter, especially on the projects that mean the most to me. Heck, I even tried. I pulled up the doc for Book 4 so many times and tried to get the words out, but the most common response was, "Who let you drive? You don't have the directions yet!" So yes, in those moments, I heavily envy the pansters of the world. Those individuals who could have the broad concept, as I did, and magically make everything come out as it should. I couldn't. I needed the wall down first. And even on those stories I've pantsed in the past, I feel there is a disconnect from my other work. Whether that shows in the finished product is up to you, dear readers, for all I know is how I felt in writing it, and my perceptions are hardly reliable. I might hate a perfectly good paragraph because I remember the mood I was in when I wrote it. We authors are a fickle bunch.

So to you, panters and plotters out there. What do you envy from your counterparts? And if you could trick yourself into becoming one rather than the other, would you?