I'm pretty Type A. I've been accused of being intense, over-structured, and the Energizer Bunny, notwithstanding long periods of getting less done.
I am a huge believer in outlining, character studies, writing-from-once-upon-a-time-until-the-end, and one-pass revision. So one day when I was out walking the dogs and had my digital recorder in hand, I pressed record and began to talk. But not just any chitter-chatter talk. I talked my way through a twenty thousand-word novella, a prequel to the What Doesn't Kill You series. Without any outlines. Without any character studies. Without any planning at all. I had no idea what I was going to say or what I would be saying it about.
And it felt . . . freeing. It felt right, for right then.
It was my second foray into digitally recording my drafts, so I was better at that part at least. Still, as I talked my way through it, I ran into obstacles. I hadn't written Ava, Laura, or Maggie points of view at the time. I waffled back and forth between first and third person, past and present tense, simplicity and complexity, accent and diction, as I experimented on the fly with my women. I struggled as I wrote a mystery without knowing who the bad guy would be, and what red herrings and clues to drop.
When I got the first draft back in written form, it was a hot mess. I could totally see why outlining first is my usual methodology!! And guess what I ended up having to do? Write character studies on the new women, who I thought I knew well from their supporting roles in earlier novels, but of course, it turned out that I didn’t know them nearly well enough to put them in the drivers' seats. Possibly because it was only 25% as long as my novels, I found revising the plot line easier than I'd expected. I had fun re-immersing myself in characters whose minds I hadn't dived into for awhile.
And I discovered a big surprise: my beta readers loved Laura and Maggie! They already knew they enjoyed the other protagonists (Katie, Emily, Michele, and Ava), because they'd gotten to know them very well. The notes and comments about the new women were immensely gratifying. And encouraging.
The story behind the story of Wasted in Waco, thus, is that this old dog is capable of learning a couple of new tricks, of turning over new leaves. And to keep it with clichés, I put the cart before the horse, and what didn't kill me made me stronger. Also, I found out I could write something shorter than a novel and pull off a complete mystery.
It was liberating . . . and I can't wait to get back to OUTLINING my next novel, right after I finish my CHARACTER STUDIES!!!!