There are many different types of writers. There are plotters (people who plot everything), plansters (people who plan a bit and then just write for the few plot points they’ve got down, and then there are pansters (people who plot nothing in advance and the story just kind of happens for them). Who you are as a writer determines your path to editing and publication.
I tend to find that plotters start out with a series of events in their heads. Plansters start out with a character and a few major situations that they get into (the beginning, one or two in the middle, and the ending). Pansters often start with characters.
I’ve talked before about the character sheet I fill out once I’m done drafting. I’ve talked about how my hand-written first drafts look like a crazy person wrote them. I’ve written about who gets to play with my words. I’ve written about the madness of changing a character’s name. I’ve written about why I write, the program I use to write, and the many forms of reading and writing I do. I’ve talked about my guerrilla writing format for getting work done. With all of that, you may know this already, but I figure I’ll state it clearly: I am both a panster and a perfectionist.
Would my life be easier if I were a plotter? Sure. Would it be as much fun? Hell no. The joy I find in writing is in the journey. My journey is going to make me sound crazy. I know this, even as I’m about to detail it for you, but I figure it bears the explanation. Keep in mind, I write multi-POV science fiction and fantasy series typically.
I start with characters. One character pops into my head and starts telling me their story. They’re totally obnoxious until I start to get things down. While I’m learning about their story, I get introduced to other characters. Some of these characters want me to tell their stories as well and they become the other narrators. Other characters just want to be on the periphery or are closemouthed about their stories. These characters become the secondary and minor characters.
I typically write one book at a time and then go back and periodically edit, making sure that the stories weave together in a way that other people can understand because I know that my knowledge of the worlds and characters is vast, whereas my readers’ knowledge is miniscule to begin with.
I went through 50 drafts of book one of the trilogy-now-a-series before I even considered starting a road map. The reason for this is because I have so much material that the question wasn’t, “Does this tell a story?” so much as it was “How many stories do I have here and can I find a way to tell one main one?” Now on my 55th round of editing and 5th road map, I think I’ve finally found the one thread through all of the narrators, the seven books, and the sheer volume of words. It is starting to feel complete to me. This is the last set of rewrites that I’m planning on doing. Someone asked me the other day, “How do you know that it’s the end of your drafting?” I know because the story is finally clear to other people, not just to me. I know because my various readers and critique folk have told me, “I get it”. I know because I think I could finally make a map that follows all of the subplots without an issue.
For me, this means that I will end up doing this final round and then sending things off. I will get it edited by a professional. I will query agents properly about my work. I will have them send things out. My goal is to do this all by Christmas now that my writing is finally becoming as clear to other people as it always was to me.