The real question is, how do you vacation? Do you pick a dot on the map, book your flight and go, hoping to figure out the details when you get there? Or do you plan your trip, researching locales, and scheduling each day like a press junket?
I lean toward the latter. Though I have no problem dropping my plans and just winging it when needed.
The same two mindsets apply to writing. Some folk start with a blank page, step on the gas, and go, full throttle, until the tank is empty. Personally, I call this banging your head against the keyboard. I’ve seen this sort of writing from colleagues and it always necessitates massive rewriting. What these writers do accomplish is a deep sense of character (at least by the end) and an impressive level of voice.
Then you have the other camp. Plot out each and every scene. In detail. Jotted down on index cards so you could presumably have a poker game with your manuscript chapters. The plot and pacing are tight. They have to be, all the air is squeezed out of the prose.
Did I sound a bit harsh on that one? I can be because that’s how I used to write. I’m a structure junky and the more I use, the better I feel. But it hasn’t helped me with characters. I find I need to work in a little bit of chaos now and again to get the character’s right.
I think different novels require different techniques. Genre novels, with even a touch of mystery, require structure to make sure the plot stays on track. On the other hand, mainstream novels or character focuses novels could use the full throttle approach. Yes they may need to go back and weave a plot in there, but the characters can live and breathe freely in that environment.
So how do you prefer to write? Are you a planner, who likes to know what you’ll do on any given day of your vacation? Or do you toss everything in a bag, book a flight, and just wing it?