Do you know how your books will end when you start writing them?
Yes, I do.
I’m not a pantser. I’m an outliner, a planner, a map maker. I need to plot things out beforehand so I can be prepared. So I know where I’m going. Sans a roadmap, I’d write my way down a dark alley in Prague, with no plausible way to return.
I’m such a planner, I have to schedule my spontaneity.
So, hell yeah, I need to know how my book is going to end before I start writing it. How else will I get there if I don’t know where it is?
Before I begin writing, I need to know a few things, in addition to the ending. I need to know how the book starts. Who’s in the first few scenes? What’s the inciting incident? What’s the overall goal/mission/challenge for the protagonist? What obstacles will he/she bump into?
I also like to set up some “tent-poles” to hold up the narrative. These are more dramatic scenes where my plot will take drastic turns. About halfway through the book, I strive to come up with a wicked twist that flips a reader’s expectation on its head. Something shocking that takes the story in an entirely new direction.
If I can, I also like to plan scenes that will move the story from the first act into the second act, and from the second act into the third act.
When it comes to that pulse-pounding ending, I try to incorporate a couple things. First, my protagonist must face off against the antagonist, one on one (if possible), and the hero must be proactive in vanquishing the villain. No deus ex machina for me!
Second, I try to choose a setting that has some significance to the hero—it could be a sentimental physical location, or it could resonate in a more thematic way.
When other writers tell me that they could never outline, because they like to be surprised by the ending, I tell them I’m surprised by the ending too—it’s just that I get surprised during the outlining phase!
Writers, what are you? Pantser or Plotter? (Or Plotzer?)