How does one go about writing a book? Specifically, should you outline the story or is that too constricting?
For Keeping Private Idaho I used Post-It Notes to keep track of what was supposed to happen next. That way I could move scenes around as I reconsidered. It worked fairly well until the stickum began to fail.
For Wizard Chase, which was a total rewrite of an earlier manuscript, I outlined in some detail.
Part-way through Wizard Girl I read something Stephen King wrote about outlining. Most books on writing stress that you really, really should do it. He said not to worry about it. Outline if you wish, but don’t let it get in your way. That advice was freeing to me. I plunged ahead off the cuff letting the characters take me where they would. It enriched the landscape of the story greatly. It also nearly killed me when I went back to work on continuity. There are probably still some dangling plot threads in the book.
For Anjels (working title), I am trying something a little different. I know where I want to go and I know the scenes that I need to write to get there. I created a one line description of each scene and gave it a title. I use that same title in Google Docs and format each scene title as a headline. I have created a table of contents using those headlines so that I can navigate between scenes easily. If I decide to insert or move a scene it is easy to do. I also tweak the outline to match what I have done in the book.
The table of contents and headlines will eventually come out of the final book file. I’m not sure how I will handle chapters, yet. At this point it doesn’t matter. I can go back later and break the long narrative into bite-sized chunks. That’s really a moot exercise, though, since no one will be able to put it down. Right?
This method of outlining, plotting and tracking continuity seems to work for me. I wish I had used it on an unpublished novel I wrote several years ago about working in radio (and kidnapping and extortion, of course). I have file after file of that manuscript living on a drive, somewhere. I’ve gone back a couple of times to try to resurrect it. The continuity is so exploded I just can’t do it.