Any consultant will tell you that when you begin an engagement, the first job of the partner is to get the client to agree to the contents of the deliverable. From there, you can create the work plan and allocate the resources. The operative phrase is “start with the end in mind.” If you don’t do this, the consulting team is constantly searching for something to produce and it leads to unhappy clients and unpaid bills for work not authorized.
In many ways, writing a novel is similar and some authors are able to envision and outline the plot all the way to the end. I can’t. I create a story outline in paragraph form and then a chapter outline with bullets on what I see happening as the story unfolds. And, yes, I have an idea of how it will end, but I can tell you that in each of my five books that have been published, the ending is slightly or even significantly different than what I thought it might be.
Why? I let the character tell the story and sometimes they don’t do what I thought they would.
How does this happen? As you write, there is interaction between the characters and the events that are driving them. When you start on page one, it is hard to script what will happen on page three hundred and two. So while the story is outlined, what happens is not necessarily set in stone. And, that’s part of the fun of writing the novel because I don’t know what will happen in the end.
So, as I write, I worry where the novel is headed knowing the end will come and it will be what it is. Then, if I don’t like it, I have more work to do.