For Valentine’s Day this year my husband and I both got each other the same thing: a giant box of chocolates. So now we have TWO giant boxes of chocolates in the house. Not good for a chocolate-addict, but that’s another story (one which will inevitably end with my waistband expanding.) No, I got to thinking about the chocolate boxes, and how irritated I get when there’s no key. You know, the little map thingy that lets you know which chocolate is which, so you don’t accidently take a chomp out of the “Norwegian fruitcake nugget.” Or whatever.
I like to know what I’m eating. I don’t like surprises.
This also applies to my writing, I realized. I’m currently plotting a new novel, and I am so manic about this book being flawless (which I know is impossible, but I want it as good as I can make it) that I can’t bring myself to leave any element unexamined before I begin writing. Plot. Character. Relationships. Setting. Beginning, middle, and end. I need to know exactly what I’m writing about, so that when I finally start writing it, I won’t have any nasty surprises.
Like plot holes. Or… *shudders*….contradictions.
I absolutely HATE it when I send out a book to my agent or editor, and they point out a giant, gaping plot hole, or some area where I unintentionally contradict myself. It irritates the ever-loving crap out of me, and makes me feel idiotic. And I sit there beating myself up, wishing that I’d worked harder. I don’t want my editor thinking I half-assed this thing. I totally worked hard, but you can’t see EVERYTHING, can you? (The answer is no. No you can’t.)
So this time around, I want no part in all of that mess. I don’t want to take a bite out of the orange cream pie.
Now, that’s not to say that a few (good) surprises aren’t allowed. If I suddenly have an insight into my character halfway through writing a book, that’s totally fine. I’m excited about those kinds of surprises. And I know some authors write without planning just for the thrill of that euphoric ah-ha moment. I can’t be that way. Call me a control freak, but I need that chocolate key when I write.
What about you all? Do you plan when you write? Or do you throw the key away, and take a chance?