I recently mentioned that I was starting my next novel - The Weight of Souls - without using any kind of outline and without stopping to review or edit as I went. This approach is completely new for me, and I was deeply cynical as to whether it would work. Nonetheless, I thought I'd give it a go.
In the end, I reached about 31,000 words before giving up. In my mind, the story had descended into a twisting morass of plot-ends, shallow characters and repetitive action. I was all set to write a blog post confirming that, for me, the non-outline approach doesn't work, and I now needed to start over from scratch. Presuming, that is, I ever had the heart to return to The Weight of Souls.
Then, a funny thing happened. A bit over a week ago, I sat down late one evening and decided to read through the 31K words I had written. I was fully expecting to cringe at every turn, and perhaps find myself unable to reach the end before giving up in disgust. Instead, to my utter amazement, I thought what I had written was quite good - very much worthy of first draft status. Yes, the characters are shallow and need a lot of fleshing out, as does the description, environment, and the overall back-story. But the plot works well, and most importantly, the voice and feel that I had hoped would come across appears to do so.
The next day, I got stuck back into it. As I write this, I'm sitting at 41,000 words, and aiming to finish the draft by New Years. That means I'm writing something close to 2,500 words a day, but I now feel encouraged that this approach can indeed work, and I'm not totally wasting my time.
I can now see the advantages of using this method, and I think I'll stick with it for the time being - provided the final result for this novel is what I would have hoped.
I'm enjoying it enormously. Even better, it's helping take my mind off my continuing wait for news of Ping-Ling. The manuscript has now been sitting in a publisher's office (at least, I hope that's where it is and it didn't get lost in the mail) for approaching 12 weeks, and I no longer have any fingernails left. Any distraction is very welcome.