I started my first novel Secrets and Lies by plotting it out. By the end of it i found that it was difficult to write because i was bored - i already knew how it was going to end and what happened next! So my subsequent novel, The Price of Passion i wrote follower the pantser method - writing by the seat of my pants and letting my characters lead me!
But, i think if you have a careful mix of the two, a general brief outline and maybe a few key scenes mapped out, this can help directionise your story whilst still giving you the chance to let your characters lead!
So, i'm testing this theory with the below method but being brief for my new single title - Suddenly Royal!. But i think it's well worth having a look at other methods and using them to your own writing style.
TEN STEPS TO THE SNOWFLAKE METHOD (courtesy of Nicole MacDonald at Damsel in a Dirty Dress)
Step One – Write a one-sentence summary of your novel. The best summary sentence is one that includes a reference to the character who has the most to lose and the thing he or she wants most to win.
Step Two – Expand your sentence into a full paragraph. In this paragraph, you should include the story set-up, each disaster, and the ending. You can decide the cause of each disaster, whether it is internally caused or brought on by external circumstances, and include those details as well.
Step Three – Next, your characters. For each of your major characters, write a one page summary sheet that includes the following:
The character’s name
A one-sentence summary of the character’s storyline
The character’s motivation (what does he/she want abstractly?)
The character’s goal (what does he/she want concretely?)
The character’s conflict (what prevents him/her from reaching this goal?)
The character’s epiphany (what will he/she learn, how will he/she change?)
A one-paragraph summary of the character’s storyline
Step Four – Expand each sentence of your summary paragraph from step two into a full paragraph. All but the last paragraph should end in a disaster. The final paragraph should tell how the book ends.
At the completion of step four, you should have a fairly concise one-page skeleton of your novel. (Don’t sweat it if it’s longer or shorter than one page. The point is that you are taking your seed of a story from step one and growing and expanding it.)
Step Five – Write a one-page synopsis of the story from the point of view of each major character. (For more minor characters, you may want to write a half a page.) This step may seem tedious (and it can be time-consuming if you have a lot of major characters,) but it will really get you into the heads of the people who will give your story life. You will begin to see where they agree and where they clash. While plot is always important, honestly drawn characters are what make us lose ourselves in a novel.
Step Six – Take a fresh look at your one-page plot synopsis from step four and expand it into a four-page synopsis. One way to approach this would be to expand each paragraph from step four into its own page. This step gives you the chance to find the complexity in your story, discover new plot ideas that may have been inspired by your character explorations in step five, and weave in subplots. By keeping it to four pages, you can also easily identify plot holes or problems with the story’s logic.
Step Seven – Expand your character summaries from step three into full-blown character charts. Make sure that you not only know each character’s motivations and goals, but also the smaller details, such as the one thing they would grab before running from a burning house, or the person who has been the greatest influence on them. This is the step where you make sure your characters are fully alive in your mind.
Step Eight – Take the expanded synopsis you created in step six and make a list of every scene that needs to be written to tell your story. If you’re adept with spreadsheets, creating one for this task will allow you to use the columns for details such as setting and POV character. For those of you who like to hold your writing in your hands, index cards will work just as well.
Step Nine – Using the scene list, write several pages of narrative for each scene. If you choose to add in dialogue, that’s fine. By the end of this step, you’ll have a miniature rough draft of your book.
Step Ten – Write your first draft!