I used to be a "discovery writer." Oddly enough, I didn't even know there was a name for my writing style until just a couple of years ago, so far into my rabbit hole was I. Back then, I began a book or story on the strength of a head full of images, voices, snippets of plot and conversation, and then proceeded to weave them together, if a bit clumsily. This method creates a manuscript which requires much refining and retooling. It's perfect for Joycean stream of consciousness stories, less so for those that become densely plotted or depend on a solidly built new world. I think I got (mostly) lucky with Ice Song, because I was following the traditional format of a fairy tale. But as I begin my fourth novel Asta Requited, and the third in the saga of Sorykah, the gender-switching Trader, I'm taking a new tack.
Deb Ayers introduced me to the Hero's Journey and Vogler's The Writer's Journey, which lit up my brain with a firecracker explosion of insight. Next, Claire Fadden shared Larry Brook's Storyfix concepts with the group. More light show displays. Then I really and truly understood the meaning, purpose and placement of the inciting incident, and plot and pinch points, hooks, archetypes, the classic conflicts and resolutions. As Eddie Murphy said, way back in '82, "You gotta have a hook!" Suddenly, the big doors of the writing temple opened, and previously vexing koans revealed their glorious simplicity. It was thrilling.
You want foreshadowing? Bam! You got it!
You want structure? Bah da bing! You got it, baby!
Asta Requited is going to be different. I'm a more confident mother/creator/writer now. I understand all the parts and their placement and will lay out my foundation in advance, rather than building the house first and then having to shore up sagging supports. It feels like more work to begin with a Hero's Journey worksheet and Story Structure worksheet (cheat sheets I made for myself), to outline and really peg out the high points, but, it's work I'd have to do anyway. This time, I'm mapping out the book. I know that my hook and foreshadowing go in the first few pages, if not paragraphs. I know (roughly) which chapters contain plot points, and the essential info needed there.
There's still plenty of freedom allotted for discovery-writing. I depend on and look forward to my characters taking charge of their own stories and surprising me. They just won't be running the show this time. It's a bit more challenging, since I'm not a terribly organized thinker and resistant to routine, but I have a new sense of comfort and certainty as I go forth. I may wander through imaginary foreign lands, but I don't need to get lost there. Sometimes, it's nice to have a map.
Kirsten Imani Kasai