Beware: I’m a dangerous sort of writer—you know, the kind who dives headfirst into a new WIP without really stopping to plot it out ahead of time. I’m usually way too excited about the shiny new idea and the characters I’ve created to figure everything out in advance. Instead, I plunder on, curious to see where the story takes me.
Don’t get me wrong, I usually have the basics figured out—who my characters are, what they want, what’s keeping them from getting it. But the specifics? They’re still off in the ether, waiting for me to pluck them out.
This wasn’t the worst problem back when I was writing stand-alone or loosely related historical romances. Mostly, it meant that my synopses very rarely matched my finished books. If I wrote myself into a corner, plot-wise, it was generally pretty easy to get myself out of it over the course of a single book, especially when the ultimate resolution was always a happily-ever-after.
But now that I’m writing a YA series? Yeah, now it’s a problem. Instead of a single book’s plot to work with, I’ve got to juggle multiple plotlines, as well as an over-arching, series-long conflict and resolution. And here’s the thing—if I over plan where I’m going with the multi-book story arc, I get bored. But if I under plan, I risk writing myself into some deep, dark corner that I won’t know how to get myself—and my plot—out of.
This is a serious problem for me as a writer. It’s risky. I introduce characters before I’m one-hundred-percent sure of their purpose. I add in subplots with just a vague idea of where they fit into the overall picture. I send action off in one direction without really knowing how I’m going to pull it back in.
Yeah, it’s scary. It’s intimidating. On the one hand, I think the mysteries in my books are generally more organic to the story, rather than overly manipulated and contrived. I think it keeps readers guessing. For example, “Is this character ultimately good, or bad?” As a reader, it’s hard to figure it out, if the author herself doesn’t quite know yet. And I like to think that, somewhere in the back of my mind, I do know all the answers, even if I’m not aware of them at any given time.
But on the other hand, I know that every single time I go into a book unprepared, I risk finding myself boxed into a little plot corner with no way out. And isn’t that an awful way to kill a WIP?
Kristi Cook is the author of Haven and it's forthcoming sequel, Mirage. A transplanted southern gal, Kristi lives in New York City with her husband and two daughters.
You can follow her on twitter @KristiCook and her books are available to order here and pre-order here.