So as I've been finishing up my manuscript and writing my synopsis (which is moving along, albeit painfully slowly), I've been thinking about volume two. Gotta do something during the 6 months I wait to hear from the first publisher I submit to.
And, of course, I've been reading lots on Book Country. It's hard to tell where someone intends to take a story when only a couple of chapters are posted. It's also hard to tell whether events that occur are going to be important later, or will be dropped/forgotten about, etc. Sometimes when I think a story has been carefully plotted, it turns out that in fact, the author was winging it.
Some writers are big believers in outlining before writing. Others (Glen Cook and Stephen King among them) start out with merely an idea and let it go from there.
Me, I'm a believer in pretty detailed outlines. The manuscript I've just finished, is not the first novel-length project I've ever worked on. But the first one is no longer in existence, because I didn't plot and it ended up meandering everywhere. This is the second, and in addition to lots of time daydreaming about what would happen, I wrote it all down.
That's not to say that what I ended up with in the seventh draft is what I originally thought I would write. The overarching story is the same, but a lot of the details have changed. Some of this was for consistency's sake. Some of this was to avoid using the same plot device too many times (e.g. gaining vital information after overhearing a conversation in a restaurant once is fine, but three times in the same book borders on ridiculous). Some of this was to avoid obvious tropes (e.g. hunting accident). Sometimes, I even let the characters wander off on their own, although that was usually with minor characters and usually also minor plot threads. I didn't change the big things all that much.
In the end, I come out pretty firmly on the side of the outliners. Not that doing it the other way is wrong, it's just not something I find myself to be particularly good at.
Once again, by the way, I don't have any posts stored up. If I can manage, I'll post a review of The King's Blood by Daniel Abraham in a day or two. (Reviews always take a long time for me to write.) I'm using my participation in Book Country to fuel a lot of my posts lately -- if I catch tropes employed or mistakes made by novice writers, I figure I'll post them here and hopefully bring some educational value to this blog (yeah, right). I have given up on fanfiction.net all together, I just never wanted to go read that crap so I stopped making myself.