Writing Notes: Runaway Clues

I was going to discuss inertia in storytelling today, but one of my serial drafts (The Minister’s Maid) is in danger of tying me up in knots trying to keep track of the minutiae of writing a sort of mystery/scavenger hunt, and I thought perhaps if I discussed that instead, I’d figure out some way to corral my clues. Or rather, I’d beat myself into submission with regards to actually making notes about this story – something I don’t normally do while writing, but really should, especially in this case.

I didn’t plan to write a scavenger hunt – it just sort of happened (having planned a few in real life, I wouldn’t intentionally do that to my writerly self, really). Such is the curse/blessing of a pantser – the characters pretty much tell me what to write, rather than me telling them what’s going on. In any case, now I’m stuck with this scavenger/treasure hunt with clues, a map and directions that must be followed. Not being a planner, I still have no idea what any of the clues beyond the second one say, nor where the map actually leads.

You have to live dangerously to write without a plan…

This, however, is a little too dangerous (not to mention inefficient) even for me. The likelihood I’ll get some detail wrong, or screw up the directions is quite high, and the fact that I’ve had to go back through the draft twice now to remind myself of the first clues mentioned (thank goodness for yWriter and well-named scenes) tells me this draft is going to be a huge mess if I don’t get a handle on the map/clues right now. And just going back through scenes to remind myself what I’ve already written, where they’ve been and where the next logical place for them to go would be is a huge waste of time – if I have all that written out in…say…a “notes” file, I can quickly refer to it and keep on typing away at the story.

I think sometime this week I really need to sit down with a map of the ranch, and the clues I’ve already doled out, and really think this whole treasure hunt thing through. As much as I hate knowing what happens next, there’s plenty going on in this story to keep me engaged throughout, and knowing the treasure hunt route will be a huge help when I’m drafting each weekly scene.

If you’re a writer and a pantser, what sorts of things will cause you to plan when you normally wouldn’t?

If you’re a reader – what’s the last book you found with a rather startling continuity error in it? 

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2 comments on “Writing Notes: Runaway Clues

  1. Dolly

    It’s so weird to see that you are a pantser since you are extremely organised in all other things. 🙂 But having tried both outlines and pantser method…I’m working on my own hybrid method. always gets better with more work.

  2. Jamie D.

    I know, it’s odd, isn’t it? But I can’t plan out a story to save my life, except in the vaguest terms. I always write a synopsis before I start, and I might make a few notes here and there while writing, but if I know how things are going to turn out, I lose all interest in the story. Odd little quirk of my brain, I guess.

    Well that, and the fact that once I start writing and get to know my characters, the whole story changes anyways. So outlining would be a total waste of time for me. LOL

    Hybrid methods are the best, I think. Eventually I would like to have a sort of “storyboard” method, that I could just use to plot one or two chapters ahead of where I am. That would be useful, I think…

    Good luck with developing your method – thank goodness there isn’t a right or wrong way, eh?