I’m generally a pantser. My words tend to zigzag behind my thoughts as they try to keep up. When I reach a plot point or scene where I’m unsure of the direction I stop and take a short walk, or I go through my research again. Sometimes a walk is enough to dislodge what is stuck, or, if I’m lucky, I might end up with a new idea, and other times I have to wait a day or more. When I start a story I begin with an idea only, a premise that interests me, and build on that. Research for me usually happens early on in the writing process, after I already wrote a few chapters. Like starting a car and then letting it idle to warm the engine.
Having a detailed plot outline is new to me. I’ve never written a complete, full outline where I parse all my research and plot lines, well, not until I began on The Morrigan. I knew how I wanted the story to end and I knew another book would follow it, and because of Seals I had the mythos already down, but I wasn’t sure how the character arcs would meet. I had snap shots in my head of scenes I wanted to use.
It meant an outline had to be created to help me tell the story without leaving gaping potholes. Thus, I began constructing a series bible for The Guardians of the Seals. All my characters are described therein along with their backgrounds, a generous plot description with various options for future use, and a précis on how the research connects to the narrative.
During the actual writing process I would jot down ideas that came up or record significant developments that were new and unplanned. This way I kept the bible updated and ready for future books and it saved me time. Even now, when I do revision, I only have to check the bible if I forgot the name of a street or building, or Sebastian’s original family name.
Writers use many ways to help them sort the plot. The index-card method is one those ways and quite a few successful authors rely on this method. Which brings me to Michael Crichton.