Are you shooting from the hip or do you follow a map?
There are no sure-fire ways to shaping and writing a novel. If your method works (be it intuitive or conceptual or outlined, or a combination, etc.) , marvellous! If it doesn’t, uh-ohhh! Especially if you’re on deadline.
I can say that I was primarily an intuitive writer for a bulk of my writing career. This is the “discovery” method of writing. I have a premise or a character and I go forth, into the darkness, to see what there is to be discovered. A lot of writers talk about the pleasure of discovery through their process of writing. I think this is a hard-wired trait in our species. (A trait that leads us into diverse regions thus spreading the gene pool, etc. Clearly there are issues of conquest and colonization that goes along with this trait!) Discovery, making connections I hadn’t foreseen, these things can send of frisson of creative delight rippling through my being.
Lately I’ve been trying to develop at least a rough outline for my novel-length projects. Two reasons, both pragmatic.
1) Unless you’re so well-established that a publisher will offer you a contract because you say, “Mmmm, I feel like there’s another book coming,” you need to have a synopsis and a hefty chunk of the writing-in-progress to submit to an agent or publisher in order to sell it before completion.
2) Discovery is super cool, but it’s not all wild strawberries and beds of dark green moss. If a person is dropped into the middle of the forest and she has no idea where she should go, if she begins to walk and continues without any reference points she will inevitably end up walking in a giant circle. I think this experience can serve as a useful analogy of the unmapped writing process of a novel. If we have a sense of direction, or at least a notion of the end point we know which way to go. This is good. Also, the thing about the forest is that it’s not predictable. We might come to an unexpected mountain range, or a wide, swift impassable river. We know we are heading north, but we can’t go the way we planned. So, We need to be adaptive, and, also enjoy the discovery of the impassable moment, the new trail we must blaze to move toward our goal. See! Discovery and direction! Gooooood! ^__^
There’s no one way to writing a novel. Really, if it works for you, then it works!
Sometimes I think that I’ve figured something out about writing, and then the next time I write a novel it doesn’t work and I have to relearn how to write the novel once again. A new way. <shaking head> <shrug>
Sometimes I just have to lie down on the springy moss, close my eyes and pray that the bears are too busy with Goldilocks to bother with me.