One of the comments that readers have made about my first novel, Escaping Destiny, is that it breaks from the expected. You don't know what's going to happen next. In all honesty, that's intentional. I will write a scene and go over it again and again, looking at it from different angles, asking myself, "If I read this, where would I think it was going? Can I send it in a different direction and, by doing so, improve the overall story?"
Instead of working with an outline, I have a destination in mind that the characters need to reach to continue the story. The characters, their interaction, and the world in which the book takes place fill in the blanks.
Free from an outline, one of the things that I do is explore various ways that the character could go from Plot Point A to Plot Point B. For instance, I'm writing the sequel to Escaping Destiny (the working title is Lost Within) and the character, Kai, needs a reason to travel to meet up with another character. (Shhhh... no secrets shall be revealed!)
My original thought was that he'd journey on foot until he reached his destination and show readers another bit of Tapestry's landscape.
But, ya know what? That's not very exciting.
Then it seemed like travelling via a portal and exploring more of the connection between the fae and the environment might be more interesting. That be much cooler than simply walking out the door! Upon further reflection, I decided that there was still plenty of room left to "crank things up a notch."
A few edits later...
As things stand now, a massive creature, formed of earth and stone, attacks without warning, slaying countless people, leaving Kai for dead, and giving our favorite mortal warrior reason to go in pursuit after he slowly regains consciousness. Nothing in my "map" changed. Kai still needs to travel from Plot Point A to Plot Point B to continue the story. However, the third approach seems like a much more exciting way to go than having Kai wave and call out, "See you soon," as he whistles his way through the countryside.
But you know, there still may be room to crank things up a notch or two... and I already have some ideas...
That's one of the beauties of working without a map instead of an outline. It gives you the freedom to focus on the story rather than the writing process. The addition of a rampaging earth elemental adds in all sorts of questions. Why did it attack them? Where did it come from? Where did it go? What's the behavior and habitat of such a creature? Did it deviate from normal behavior and if so, why? The answer to each of those questions changes the story in its own way. Writing with more of an open format allows me to accommodate those changes and allow the characters and world to breathe and influence the story in their own way.
Lost Within, the sequel to Escaping Destiny, is coming along beautifully and is scheduled to publish in February 2012. My second novel, The Awakening comes out this May.
Even better news? The scene described above is from just the second chapter of Lost Within. Hold on, because we're going to hit the ground running in Book Two of the trilogy.