I’m an exploratory writer. Which means that I write without a plan.
Basically, I get an idea or a character or sometimes even just a first line and then I start writing. The story unfolds itself. The characters tell me what they want to do and where they want to go. The book opens up in front of me as though I’m reading it and not writing it. It’s a wonderful exercise in imagination and stamina.
I love that I write this way because it means I don’t get bored. I’m also not constraining myself to a plot that’s already been mapped out. In fact, I find that if I plan ahead, I have more trouble writing. It’s like because I already know the story and the ending, I don’t need to write it down. But if I don’t know what’s going to happen next, then I can put pen to paper and find out.
I know that not everyone writes like I do. Not everyone understands how I can write like this. I get it.
It would be wonderful if I could map out a story, draw up an outline, know how to get from point A to B to C and arrive comfortably at an ending. Instead, I write in circles, have multiple missteps, tend to get “blocked” when I don’t know what to do next, and — the worst of it all — don’t always tell a narratively cohesive and developmentally growing story.
But the problem is – if I did all that planning, I’m not so sure I’d want to write at all. That’s not what writing is about for me. It’s about exploration. It’s about movement. It’s about finding out what happens next.
One of the things I love about the way I write is the surprises it brings. Characters change right in front of my eyes, plots shift, and the story might become something unexpected. Like I said, writing for me is almost like reading. I don’t know the story until it emerges from my hands. That’s why, sometimes, endings sneak up on me.
Of course, this isn’t the ideal way to write for many reasons.
One being that writing without a plan means that, without an ending in mind, I might meander away from telling my story. Or that I miss key scenes. Or that something that I thought was important at the start isn’t important at all by the middle or the end.
Those are all chances I have to take because any time I’ve tried to write with an outline or I’ve tried to plan ahead, I’ve found the whole thing to be boring, rote, and restricting. I give up quickly and move on to something else.
I know I write differently than other writers, but I also know that this is what makes being a writer fun for me. It’s why I do it. I like exploring the story. I love it when a character shocks me by an action or says something I didn’t expect. I adore it when the story shifts directions and I have to sit back and go whoa and catch my breath before I can continue.
I write to explore what happens next. If I already knew what happened next, why would I need to write it down?
Well, as Maya Angelou was famous for saying, “A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song.” Keeping singing your song, Sarah. Enjoy it! 🙂