I’m the kind of guy that likes to draw up an outline of a story BEFORE I start writing it. It helps me to know more or less where the story is going, and it gives me a sort of peace of mind. I don’t need EVERYTHING to be written out, but I do need some sort of structure to follow.
Could that be a mistake? Perhaps not always, but I know that there are times when following the structure I have laid out has made my writing worse.
You see, a story starts out as an idea, but that idea changes over time. For example, when I first started writing The Last Bucelarii, it was originally going to be a story of assassins, thieves, and all. By the time I finished Book 1: Blade of the Destroyer, the story had morphed into–SPOILER ALERT–demon hunting. I had no idea who the bad guys were going to be, but all I had was a rough outline of what I wanted.
A story may start out as an idea, but it is a living thing that morphs and grows. It may go in directions that you are not expecting, and it may take you places that will shock you! If you aren’t willing to bend and change with the cruel muse of inspiration, you may end up telling the wrong story.
Your story will grow and change as you do, and you may find out that your story is going somewhere you are not expecting. Not all writers want to go down the rabbit hole to see where their story is leading, but I find that my stories come out too rigid and inflexible if I don’t adjust to the changes in the story as they come.
You can NEVER predict all of the things that will change in your writing as you go. The character you never expected to die will suddenly be killed off, while the direction you hadn’t expected to go all of a sudden becomes the central theme of your story.
DO NOT be so inflexible and rigid that you only follow the structure of your story as you have laid it out. Be prepared to make changes, both to the layout of the story and the central story line itself. You never know where you’ll end up, but chances are good that it will be MUCH better than your structure would ever have been!