I just put up a post over at SEP regarding delays in the serial fiction/novel Dark Horizons. I mention it here, because it talks about the writing process.
I used to try to be a â€œseat of my pantsâ€ writer. I would start with an idea, and move forward. Sometimes I knew the ending, sometimes I didnâ€™t, but I just wrote until I couldnâ€™t write any longer.
I will admit I did a fair amount of writing like that. The thing is, I didnâ€™t finish much. That which I did finish, failed to satisfy. I wrote mostly long fiction, so I guessâ€”in a wayâ€”it is understandable that so little was actually completed. Still, this also applied to my short fiction.
If you will excuse the digression, I am notâ€”primarilyâ€”a short fiction author. That is because I am notâ€”primarilyâ€”a short fiction reader. In my experience, one writes what one would like to read. For me, thatâ€™s long format fiction. I got into short fiction because thatâ€™s one way to â€œbreak through.â€ I intended to get some short fiction under the belt, then get my agent, then publish my novels.
Of course, then I stopped being prolific, and here we are.
Digression complete. Back to the topic at hand.
I learned that I needed a roadmap. I needed to plot out even my short fiction. I had to know how I was getting from A to B. Iâ€™m not saying every writer needs this, but I did.
It got my short fiction published.
Every short story that I have sold was plotted out from the beginning. Every story I am working on now (three . . . and theyâ€™ve been around for years, so donâ€™t hold your breath) is plotted out. That does not mean they end up as intended.
As I mention in my SEP post, characters can take control of a story. Events in the story can change. While writing, I sometimes realize that a planned event or character action doesnâ€™t really work, and by changing it, I change the story. None of this matters. Because I have the roadmap there, I can make detours and still stay on course.
None of the three stories I have sold (two now published, one coming soon!) match their original plan. They all changedâ€”sometimes drastically. The setting of Flotsam (basically a floating suburb of wrecks and scavenged material held together by ropes and chains) from â€œFlotsam Jewelâ€â€”published in the now defunct Forgotten Worldsâ€”was a later addition. It changed a lot of the story, but just the details. For â€œA Pound of Dead Flesh,â€ coming soon from Black Gate, the main villain changed, and this totally changed the climax of the story.
I need a roadmap to begin journey. I still do a lot of â€œseat of my pantsâ€ writing, but having a map helps me to â€œstay on target.â€ Porkins would be proud.