I've tried a variety of options when I write a novel. I've tried winging it - just starting and going with whatever pops into my brain. I've tried plotting the first few chapters and leaving the middle to chance. I've tried in-depth plotting, knowing all my major plot points, my black moment, and everything else.
And here's the conclusion I've come to. No matter what I do, my story is always going to change.
I thought I had my GMC's (goals, motivations, conflicts) figured out for my characters in my latest novel. Things were going along swimmingly until I got to about chapter eight and realized that something was wrong. My characters had broken out of the mold I'd put them into (or at least, broken out of what they "told" me about themselves to begin with) and had morphed into different people. Thankfully, it brought the story together much better than I had originally planned.
I had to put these characters into situations and have them feel emotions before I could truly understand them. No amount of character charts or character interviews would do the trick.
While this may increase the time it takes me to finish this novel, that's ok. It's part of my process. And instead of trying to conform to what I "think" my process should be, I have to realize that this is how I work. It took me three novels to figure it out, and I'm sure that every novel will be different, but at least I know what works and what doesn't.
I've been rewriting my first three chapters to reflect my characters' changes and everything flows so much better. And I gotta tell ya - it's then when I love the process. I love to immerse myself in my characters and their world. It makes all the angst and doubt worthwhile. :-)
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