Writing to know the ending

Yesterday, I had one of those experiences that brought home, yet again, the fact that writers go about the work of writing in vastly different ways.

I, for one, use only a gold-nibbed fountain pen, filled with ink made from freshly crushed pomegranates. I set down my lapidary prose during the hours of dawn and dusk, and scribble my immortal thoughts onto parchment scavenged from the scriptoria of monasteries during the Henrician Iconoclasm.

Or something like that.

A friend mentioned an exercise she had done, in order to get a better understanding of plot. This is an impulse that I share: Plot and I have the sort of relationship where, if we discover we are at the same party, one of us makes excuses to the host and scuttles out the side door. But while I understand and share the desire to have a working relationship with plot, it was the method that knocked me backwards in awe. She made an outline of a novel.

I know there are people who do this, who sit down to write, and make outlines. Who know how many scenes they need to get from one place to the next, who have the story arc firmly in their grasp, and who even know the ending when they begin. I am not one of these people.

I have never known the ending of a story when I began - I'm lucky if I know what happens next, much less what happens 30,000 words later. I write because I want to know what happens next, and if I don't keep writing, I never will. I can't know the ending until I know the characters - where they live, how they speak, and most of all, what they want.

Some days, I think it would be nice to see a clear, well-lit path from beginning to end of story. But for now, I light my lantern against the fog, and pick my way through the rocks, hoping not to fall into a pit, and waiting to meet the dragon.