And because plotting isn’t a particularly fun activity for me (interesting, yes; barrel-o-laughs, no), I like to enlist the help of, well, anyone who’s willing, actually. What I’m looking for are more pebbles in my pond, events that will eventually become a novel. So I tell whomever I’ve chosen to be my fellow plotter all the things I know about the story, and then we’ll toss around “what if” ideas.
Now, not everyone can fulfill the role of fellow plotter (perhaps “story amanuensis” would be more appropriate, but I’m going to refer to these rare and saintly individuals as FPs). It takes a certain kind of personality. Someone creative, first and foremost. Smart. Focused. And – very important -- mentally flexible. Control freaks do NOT make good FPs. You don’t want someone who’ll get angry if you don’t like their idea. Nor do you want someone who just agrees with everything you say. Nor someone who watches so much TV that all their ideas are second-hand. Nor, egad, someone who doesn’t read, because they don’t know plot from Shinola.
But once in a while you’ll come across someone who can immediately grasp the essence of your story – who can, in effect, jump into it at nearly the same depth you can. That’s who you want.
Over the years, I’ve developed friendships with more than one person who fits these stringent characteristics, which is a good thing because I don’t want to wear out my welcome with any of them. And I try not to press too hard, or bore them with plot-itis. But I probably couldn’t write a whole book without them. They turn what is otherwise an utterly solitary occupation into a social vortex. Or at least something that’s a little more fun than sweating over a keyboard by myself, which constitutes the major part of a writer’s life.
But with or without these human blessings, get your outline written before you begin the text of your novel. Because if you know what to say, you’ll find it’s a lot easier to say it. And with an outline, you’ll be able to write anywhere, anytime… Because you’ll know what to say.
So here’s what I’ve been trying to tell you for lo, these many pages: There’s ALWAYS time to write, as long as you HAVE something (immediate) to write, if you WANT to write it, and if you’re WILLING to write. Most of the time, the missing part of that formula is the “HAVING SOMETHING TO WRITE” part.
An outline takes care of that.