People invariably ask, “Do you start with an outline?” Yes and no. A writer has to have a genesis for a story, perhaps even a general idea of where the tale is headed. But that’s not a preordained sequence I commit to paper. My characters are rarely fully formed when I begin. I may know who my protagonists are, but getting inside their heads is a process, not something put down in an outline. Words flow, dialog tumbles out, and the plot proceeds. It doesn’t always go the way you imagined it. Was I following an outline? No, the story evolved. I’m not wedded to a calculated layout of story, nor do I want to be. The longer I’m involved with my characters, the more I know them. They may do things I hadn’t imagined them capable of. They may say things I hadn’t dreamed they would say. The story turns and twists in ways that surprise me. An ending I thought worked suddenly no longer seems right. The characters have taken me in another direction. Was I following an outline? Sure, there was a beginning and maybe a rough idea of where this might go but if I’m open to all possibilities, let the words flow. I’ll sort them out later . . . my editor will help me focus on what works and what needs to be tossed.