Reader Question – Do you plot a story or discover as you go?

I plotted my stories when I was writing historical romances in the general market.  I knew where I was going long before I got there.  But these stories were simple – formulaic.  Boy meets girl.  Boy and girl are driving apart.  Boy and girl get back together again.  At the time, the focus was the sexual tension between the two people and how they would eventually end up in a life-long-love relationship.

When I became a Christian, that kind of lock-step writing didn’t work.  The first book I wrote as a Christian was Redeeming Love, a novel based on the prophet Hosea.  The plot was right there.  Actually, the plot of Redeeming Love starts in Genesis and ends in Revelation.  It’s all about the love relationship between God and mankind, the extents to which He will go to save His bride.  The plot in the novel had to move with the psychological aspects of a deeply wounded young woman, how she came to be that way, what it would take to heal and restore her to the One who always loved her passionately. 

Each book after that one has been more of a “seat-of-the-pants” style of writing. Most of my novels start with a question.  The characters play out the different answers.  One character is a strong Christian.  I spend the year studying the scriptures with the starting question in mind.  It is a quest.  I’m seeking God’s perspective.  It’s a more difficult way to tackle a story, but I receive insights I wouldn’t have by plotting the story ahead of time.

With that said, I do write out a short synopsis and some character analyses for the publisher so there is some idea what direction I’m going.  I am fortunate to work with a publishing house that understands the finished manuscript may not be anything like the proposal I turned in at the beginning. 

Letting the story unfold is sometimes frustrating, but I find it a far more exciting way to write than knowing much of the story before I start on page one. 

Every writer has their own way of working.  There are no right and wrong ways to tackle a story.  Each writer has to find what works and brings forth the goal:  creating a story that draws the readers in and holds them until the final page.