Many fiction writers plan out a story in great detail before writing the first word. And many writing instructors teach the hows and whys of plotting and outlining. They swear by the process, claiming it provides discipline and keeps you on track. If you plot and outline well enough, you’re less likely to wander off on tangents or let the story ramble down paths not of your choosing.
But it’s not the only way to write. And, for some, not the best way to write. While every story starts somewhere, and the writer likely has some idea about where it’s going, many writers know little else about it. They like to let the story find itself, rely on the characters to drive the action, and allow causes to create their own effects and conflicts to reach their own resolution.
That’s the way I like to write. In fact, as I write this I am about 50,000 words into a novel, and while the story and characters have decided what happens next (as they have, for the most part, all along the way), what follows after that is pretty hazy, and where it will end is unknown—at least to me.
There’s a quotation by Ray Bradbury that sums up this approach to writing a book: “Go to the edge of the cliff and jump off. Build your wings on the way down.”
E.L. Doctorow said something similar: “Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”
I trust that, at some point, the fog will clear and book I am working on will eventually reach its destination.
P.S. It did.