I'm not really an outliner. I will confess it here and now. I will also confess that there have been some times that I have really regretted it. And I will further confess that I think the reason two novels have stagnated in-process for me is that I had an open and a close, and lost my way in between. An outline would have helped prevent that.
I'm also a bit of an explorer. I've been an archaeologist. I've been a forensics tech. I've been a historical researcher. I know the thrill of uncovering things, and have been intoxicated by it. When I'm writing, I'm also exploring. I love seeing the story unfold as I write it the same as if I were reading it or watching a movie of it.
But I am writing it.
And that's where I get really confused by other writers sometimes. I do know what it's like to be surprised by things as I write. I do know what it's like to get angry with and even yell at a character. And I do know what it's like to reach a point where I realize that what I was intending will not actually be possible.
What I don't get, however, is when writers find themselves stumped. I'm not criticizing them. I'm not complaining. But I literally cannot conceive of it. Here are some examples of what I'm talking about:
"I don't know if I should have my character do this."
"I don't know where to go from here."
"I had planned for that character to be a villain, but they went and did something heroic, so now I don't know who my bad guy is."
I hit stumbling blocks in the middle of the road. I get that. I can understand how you sit at point A and look to point D but aren't sure how to go from A to D.
But I don't see how you can get to point C and not know where you're heading.
Partly, it just has to do with the way I think. I'm not much of a step-by-step kind of guy. I conceive the overall big picture, and then have to go back and fill out the details. So when I start writing, I know how it starts and I know how it ends, and I have a sense of the voyage between, even if I don't quite have all the details picked out yet.
To me that also seems like basic story-telling, though. If you don't know where you're heading, I'm not sure what it is you're doing when you sit down to write. Again, I don't mean any offense whatsoever. Just journaling about my own confusion. To me, if I go to write a story, if I don't know where it's going, I'm not writing a story. I quite literally don't understand what's in your mind when you write a story that is only a beginning.
Of course, I remember reading a forward by A. C. Crispin in one of her Star Trek novels (blush). It was a great story, and very creative, like most of her stuff that I've read. And one of the things she said was that a lot of her stories just start with her asking a, "What if..." question. "What if Spock and Bones sat down to play a game of chess?" Hmm.
Too, I love writing for prompts. (Check out Flashy Fiction!) But when I write for prompts, I think for a little while, and start writing once the big picture comes to me. I don't start before I know where it's going.
If any writers who work free-form from a beginning want to chime in and clue me in, I'd love to learn. I'm a curious fella by nature, and if I can understand rather than be confused, I prefer it!