I am more of what we scribblers call a “pantser” than a “plotter” meaning I fly by the seat of my pants when I write, relying on high-level plot points, storylines and desired outcomes to guide me rather than planning a novel down to individual chapter and scene details. My mind simply won’t let me do otherwise. Sometimes, it takes me down dead ends, but mostly, it allows me to set my characters free to do their thing and I’m often pleased when they take me down unexpected rabbit holes. It does mean, however, that I’m frequently confronted with decisions that force me to choose between two separate paths, each driving the story or part of the story in a different direction.
I faced one such decision point the other day while working on the fourth Siobhan Dunmoore novel and it suddenly occurred to me that I had stumbled on the science fiction writer’s version of the old Schroedinger’s cat dilemma. Part of the plot involves finding a starship carrying purloined naval stores and Dunmoore lands in a particular place with her shuttle but can’t determine whether said starship is there or not until she gets out of the shuttle and is able to examine her surroundings. Because chores were calling, I had to stop writing at the point where she’s about to disembark, still not knowing myself whether she would find her elusive quarry. At that moment, I realized that not only would Dunmoore and I have to wait until she opens the hatch and disembarks to find out but that until then, the starship may be simultaneously there and not there. Schroedinger’s starship – all in a day’s work for someone who writes by the seat of his pants.
And no, I’m not telling you how it turned out. Read the book once it’s published.