For me, writing a novel is like a road trip. I can get out my maps, plan my route, and figure out my final destination, right down to the hotel parking lot.
But then I get underway and I see billboards for The Thing, Mystery of the Desert, and even though it’s not on my route I gotta go see it, and then I overhear someone at a rest stop mention something about the world’s largest toilet in New Mexico, so I go off searching for that, and by the time I’m in Oklahoma my map has flown out the car window and the hitchhikers I picked up in Amarillo are starting to concern me.
I’m trying to break myself out of the habit of writing like this, because I’ve run out of gas a few times. Even nearly wrecked my car. I’m not sure the solution is more extensive mapping, because what I know about the road and my passengers and myself is sure to change once I’m out there, and to insist on sticking to the map could damage the spontaneity and sense of discovery that makes a book fun to write.
I’ve written fairly detailed synopses for my next two books (my agent insists on them), but 100 pages into the first of those books, I’ve already found myself heading off in search of the world’s biggest waffle cone. Fortunately, I still know where the highway is, and I even know the parking space I’m heading for at the end of the road. But, really, anything can happen along the way.