I have seen this question asked many times within critique circles and on blogs. I’ve often wondered how other writers would answer the question. I suspect every person you ask will give you a different answer. Here is my two cents worth.
From the cradle, we are taught there is a right way and a wrong way to do things with no gray in between. When it comes to writing (and most everything else) I don’t necessarily think that’s true. Writers are not a cookie-cutter group of folks. If there is anything similiar about us as a whole it is that we tend to shun the mold and march to our own drum. So why would we need a set method to write? Part of the creative process is enjoying the freedom to explore your way of doing something.
Some hold the key to literary genius with outlines. They make endless notes, fill notecards with the minute details of their characters lives before they ever begin the first page of a novel. That’s great…if it works for them. I admire their patience and skill, but this writer hates outlining. Not dislike, loathe. It’s a complete killjoy for me. I lose creative focus if I try to outline anything on paper.
I did try the notecards. Bought a pack last year. Anna used five for a 4-H speech and the rest are collecting dust on a shelf by my desk.
Maybe the part of your brain that solves complicated math problems also writes outlines. That would explain it. I am terrible at math. Always have been. My high school teachers couldn’t figure out how I could flunk Physics and Geometry, yet comprehend Shakespeare’s plays without trying. My kids learned early on for math and science homework help to go to their Dad. History and Literature? Go to Mom.
Some writers spend ages researching the tiniest details. Here lies my achilles heel. I love to research. It’s like investigating. Want to know something about whether or not a particular flower grows in Japan? Internet.
How many different ways are there to cook chicken? Internet. (That research actually did go into a book btw.)
What does a dragonfruit look like? (Wicked cool! I want one of these.) Internet.
Just what did happen in the last episode of Inuyasha? (Kagome returns to the fuedal era to marry Inuyasha for those of you who are wondering.) Ah, you guessed it. Go to the net.
And this is why I don’t have internet at home. It’s just too distracting. I love research so much that I will look up every random thing that pops into my head and file it away for future use. Just not on notecards. I actually keep a list of things to look up which have absolutely nothing to do with anything I’m working on…yet.
What in the world does this rambling chaos have to do with the best way to write a novel? Nothing. See, that’s how my brain works. From Japanese flowers to fruit to anime, it bounces around in complete random thought patterns that somehow end up making sense. The process is scattered and all wrong as far as everyone else is concerned, except it is perfectly right for me. I don’t make outlines or notecards because my characters are living breathing people to me. I don’t need all that to remember who they are. I hear them, see them, know them. There is method in madness. Calm in chaos.
There is no best way, right way or wrong way to write a novel. (The mechanics of grammar and POV are an entirely different matter.) There is just your way and what works for you. Your way probably won’t work for someone else.
Whatever path you take, happy writing!