I recently finished writing and editing Wings of the Sathakos, a full-length fantasy novel. My first novel, actually. I learned a lot about writing over the two years it took me to complete it.
Here’s the most important lesson:
Outlining and planning aren’t necessary, but they sure do help
My process for writing Wings of the Sathakos went like this:
1. Go to a coffee shop
2. Bring up the latest chapter I’d been working on
3. Start writing
There was literally no planning. At the beginning, I had only the world in my head, and the very beginning of the plot. I knew what set my characters in motion but I had no idea where they were going or what was going to happen when they got there.
I actually enjoyed this style of writing because I got to discover things along with my characters. I got to put them in situations and then sit back to think about how they could get out of them. It made for a fun, creative writing process, but it was ultimately flawed.
Many of my editor’s comments had to do with logical inconsistencies. I had said that my characters were a certain way, then had them act the opposite. I had chosen to have them engage in some very unlikely behaviors for the sake of keeping the story interesting, but rarely sold their reasons for behaving that way effectively.
Outlining and planning can help to avoid the inevitable rewrites that comes with a freeform approach. The two novels I’m working on now have both been planned far more than Wings of the Sathakos. It feels more constricting but it’s comforting to know where I’m going.