I may not know exactly where my plot is going to go, but I can precisely picture myself writing different parts of the book: doodling out ideas to take me through the first half of the book, frowning at the middle and then smiling when I know who my second victim will be, and the end where I stew over my ending (because the endings are tough for me. I have a method for my beginnings, but the endings I haven’t pinned down.)
When you have a process that you automatically follow, you don’t ever have that worry “will I ever be able to finish this book?” That’s because you’ve done it before and it becomes almost rote.
Each person finds the process that works best for them. This is what works for me:
Listing favorite elements to include. I love it when you have a subplot that ends up affecting the outcome of the main plot. I love it when I’m reading a mystery and the suspect I’ve pegged as the murderer ends up being the second victim. I love reading books where a character’s personal failings affect the way they absorb information or gather it. I love plot twists.
Gathering snippets of ideas. Not all the ideas will make it into the book. I’ll have names, personality traits, personality conflicts between characters or the sleuth and a suspect, bits of dialogue, ideas for scene settings, etc. I’ll list these brainstormed fragments in a Word file I call “Random” with my WIP’s name on the front.
I have a vague idea where I want my plot to go, but I do use mini-outlines for just a chapter, page, or even scene. Big outlines, for me, tend to make me feel constricted. But I like to write a scene knowing exactly what I want to get out of it: is this scene mostly for comic relief and a chance for the reader to get to know my protagonist a bit better? Fine…but the plot still needs to be advanced in some way. I sketch that out on paper.
Sitting down and writing my personal goal each day. My goal is usually a page goal or a word count goal, but sometimes is a timed goal. I write straight through.
I write straight through, but—if I run into a snag that’s sucking up too much of my time and creativity, I treat it like the SATs—skip it and move on to the next scene or chapter.
I don’t revise as I go. It makes me feel like my WIP is awful, every time. Instead, I finish my goal for that day, then make little notes for the next day: this is where I left off, this is where I need to pick up, this is the scene I need to start with today. This keeps me from reading the previous day’s info to see where I left off.
I don’t mess around with research on the first draft. If I open an internet browser, I may as well just kiss off any writing for the rest of the day. Instead, I mark the part of the text that needs research or changes in any way (a character name change I want to do, etc.) with *** and then move on. Later, during revisions, I can do a Word search for *** in my document and get right to the spot that needs work.
I keep writing.
I finish my first draft.