Shana and I recently welcomed a new family member. Daisy May is a Plott Hound, which makes her the perfect companion for a mystery writer who hates to outline his stories and can’t spell.
I hadn’t heard of a Plott Hound until we adopted Daisy May from a shelter in Virginia Beach. (Or she adopted us, as some say.) As it turns out, the Plott Hound is the state dog of North Carolina.
I’m hoping she’ll live up to her name and help me work out plots as I muddle through my
second novel, tentatively titled “Mallets.”
Which brings up a point: As a writer, you are a plotter or a pantser?
When I began writing novels, I outlined extensively before writing the first word. But I soon learned that pre-draft outlines fall apart once words start hitting the page. Those two characters you thought were necessary? They work better as one person. That minor administrative assistant in the office who has a walk-on role? Turns out she’s a major player.
As I’ve moved on – two novels in the drawer, one sold – I’ve done away with detailed outlines and made general road maps before I begin. I know where the story will begin and end. I have an idea of the rising action and what the mid-point might look like.
But beyond that, characters will do what characters do.
I still write myself into holes on a regular basis. Digging yourself out is what makes the story work. If you surprise yourself while writing a story, the reader will be surprised, too. And that bit about knowing the ending? I THINK I know the end when I begin, but sometimes that changes, too.
Of course, Daisy May will solve these problems. I’ll be swearing at my laptop and she’ll sidle over and say, “Dude, the cat did it. Now go get me a treat and press your paws against the keyboard and finish this thing. Eventually, I’ll have to pee.”
"Fadeaway Joe" releases Aug. 22 from Crooked Lane Books. Pre-order it here.