It sounds so simple – finish what you write. But as most writers know – easy to say, harder to do. I have my share of early books that are a hot mess. Some are finished, but not very well. Others, I got halfway through them and then got stuck, never to return again.
That doesn’t happen to me anymore. The reason – I plan out my stories ahead of time. As a reformed pantser, I can only say that having a plan has made a big difference. I finish what I start. As a result, I have a completed manuscript to sell. And for most of us, that’s the whole point, right?
Think of it this way, the plot outline is like GPS or a roadmap. As with any journey, you know where your end destination is supposed to be. What you don’t know is what you’ll encounter along the way. Maybe you’ll get slightly lost and discover a nice restaurant or scenic view you would have never encountered otherwise. Using a map or GPS doesn’t mean you can’t deviate from your path. It means you don’t have to be afraid of getting totally lost.
I have writer friends who believe that plotting will destroy their creativity. Or that an outline means they’ve already written the story and there’s nothing new to discover. I think that not knowing where you’re headed is a bigger problem. It can freeze you in your tracks and cause indecisiveness. Something you don’t want to have happen while you are in the middle of writing. An outline can tell you what is going to happen next, but now how or why. Those are questions that are still there to be discovered and explored while writing.
Of course, an outline is just a guide. I often discard or rearrange as the story or characters demand. And, boy, can your characters have other plans! But that’s a whole other topic for another day.
Whether you write by the seat of your pants or plot the whole thing out, the important message here is – finish what you start!!