Or you could call this when a pantser tries to plot. I used to be a pantser, or, really, a hybrid. With Promise and Purpose, I let the characters tell me the story, but I had an idea of where it was going and some of the major plot twists. I kept a notebook with scribbles so I wouldn’t forget my ideas when the time came.

With the third book of the series, and probably the rest, however, I had to plot. Switching teams was a big step for me because it terrified me, but it turned out well. I finished the book, which I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to do if I knew everything that was going to happen. (I’ve learned that the author, at least this one, never knows everything.)

I’m currently working on a novella and for a long time it had really been beating me down. I’ve known the story since I got a few chapters into Promise, so I wasn’t worried about plotting or pantsing. I could tell you what happened in about five pages. But actually creating a story out of it has made me feel like I’ve done a round in the boxing ring. I tried to let the characters tell me, but with alternating POVs, I realized I needed a chapter outline. Then that wasn’t even working. I still kept getting tied up. Then I did this:

I had to blur it up so you didn’t see any spoilers. Also, note my reward for figuring this out. It’s gone now. It tasted yummy.

This is the second half of the book. It looks like a huge mess, I know. But you know what? That’s exactly what I needed. Although what’s on this page is basically spread out on three pages elsewhere in nice, linear format and narration, I guess I had to see the pieces all together and how they fed each other.

This mess is kind of a mash-up of earlier note-scribbling-pantsing days and my more recent foray into outlining. I don’t know. It works. And that’s what we writers have to do with every single story we sit down to write. As I’ve learned, a successful method for one book might not be the right one for the next.

Have you ever had to turn your ways upside-down and inside-out? Or have you been able to find a single tried-and-true method that works for you? Do you ever get pages of notes that look like mine? Or worse? I do have worse. Maybe we can have a blog fest for messiest notes and outlines.