Planner. Pantster. Plotter. All popular "p" words among writers. One of the more often posts I've read around the blogosphere is the Are You a Plotter or Pantster discussion. Not that there's anything wrong with that. It's a good topic, to be sure. When I leave comments, however, I end up saying the same thing: I'm both.
There is no "one size fits all" method for crafting a story. Some authors are discovery writers. Others need a spreadsheet to keep track of the magic system. What's important is finding the method that works for you.
And this has helped my last two novels greatly.
I call it The Mini-Synopsis Outline - a three-lined paragraph summary of every chapter for as many chapters as the story needs, not to exceed three pages (depending on how long you want the novel to be).
A lot can happen in a chapter, more than can be summed in a three-lined paragraph, but it is enough to jot down the chapter's purpose, which then challenges us to complete its message in an exciting, succinct way.
(Great practice for query and synopsis writing, btw).
After the outline is completed, it goes through edits. The whole story is right there in a 2-3 page document, a tight space for reviewing plot points, making it easier to spot holes, incongruencies, and lags while reading like a mini story in and of itself. If you have a good idea on what your ending is and how each chapter leads to the next, that helps reduce the time spent at the beginning of a new chapter thinking, "how do I start this one?"
Not that there's anything wrong with that - not at all!
Keeping it limited to three-lined paragraphs also helps invite discovery and deal with the dreaded perfectionist in all of us. It's easier to scrutinize over a series of small passages than a detailed, 20 page outline of a novel.
This is not the rule, just my thoughts on the matter. With this outline, I can lay a full novel foundation in a matter of hours. And when the actual writing begins, everything is subject to change. Outlines, after all, don't have to be followed to the letter, but to be used as a guide to help lead us from introduction to conclusion.
Whether you plot or pantsed, do you have any unique approaches to your writing? How has it helped you?
I'm David ... not that there's anything wrong with that!