Writing is a very personal activity, and there are probably as many “methods” of writing as there are authors. What works for one person may not work for someone else. In some instances–such as the outliner vs. the seat-of-the-pants writer–methods can be complete opposites, yet they both get the job done for different sets of people.
Like many authors, I find myself somewhere in the middle of the spectrum. I’m not fully an outliner, but I like to have a little structure to work within. Neither am I fully an SOP writer, although I like the freedom to let my characters lead me from one plot point to another.
I like to think my story plot like a dot-to-dot, with the beginning, ending, and major plot points being the “dots.” I want to know how my story begins and ends, and before I start writing, I usually have at least a fuzzy idea of the most important scenes. This is where the outliner in me comes out. I can plot out these ideas using an outline form (although I leave plenty of blank space between scenes).
Once I start writing, and the creative muse must be funneled into words and word-pictures, the SOP part of me takes over at the end of each scene. That’s when the questions start. How would each character react to the events of the first chapter? What would she say? How would he respond? Yet I’m also driving the characters towards the next plot point, so I add deeper questions. “What does she need accomplish or experience to get her to the next “dot”? What would motivate him to do what needs to happen in the next plot point?
As I answer these questions, more scenes flesh out in my head, so I go back to the outline and add plot points. The creative muse then kicks in as I write out the next scene. And when I finish it (or sometimes a sequence of scenes), then I ask the questions again. Back and forth between the opposite ends of the writing method spectrum.
I won’t say that this “method” uses the best of both outlining and SOP writing, as what is best will be different for each writer, but the Dot-to-Dot Method certainly draws upon aspects of both. And for me, it gets the story written.