If I had it my way, I'd start every novel with a jump from a ten meter diving board, plummeting headfirst into writing it without wasting any time with plotting and planning. And I do that quite often, sometimes successfully, sometimes resulting in catastrophic failure - there really is no connection, since I can say the same about those novels that are fully plotted before starting to write and that have the same quote of successes and failures. Quite often, plot really comes with writing. But before that, there always is an idea, a concept, which tends to be rather complex. I get, to quote Astrid Lindgren, my ideas faster than a pig will wink, and I usually get them when there's no writing utensils around - in my sleep, when riding the bus, on the treadmill. I suppose that's a protective mechanism of my creativity, to force me to do a minimum of mental work before reaching for my pen. Thus, I usually do without all plotting tools except for my mind. Whiteboard, notebook, software? Brain power! But regarding that, I'm really, really fast.
I got the idea for »The Dolls' Room« when getting back home after work, a bus ride of some fifteen minutes. During that time, I got from »Hmm, why don't I write a mystery novel with a spooky old mansion in it?« via »And there's got to be dolls, because an old mansion full of dolls is the spookiest thing ever and I really would love to read a good mystery novel with dolls in it!« to »But the dolls are not really dolls, and the orphan girl isn't really an orphan girl, and there are fairies who steal human souls, and everything is totally different than how it seems.« Well, I could have done without the last sentence, because this goes for all of my novels, but my first thing after getting home was writing down a treatment called »House of the Dolls« that was, in large parts, identical to the book as it was published in the end. But it took me over half a year before starting to write it, not because of lack of plot or ideas, but because I didn't dare to touch the historic material before doing some in-depth research on the time. After all, it was my first novel with a historical background.
But usually, writing down a treatment - without the middle part, because that's the last thing I plot - is all I do in preparation work for a new novel. Concerning that, I'm totally boring - I don't have a scrapbook to show around, no sketches, mind maps or time lines, only some brief notes of what is going to happen in which chapter, if I'm a afraid I can't keep it in my mind otherwise. The idea is alive within my head, brewing, brooding, growing, sometimes throwing some new features at me to nod them through, but it doesn't feel like I have a lot of thinking to do, I just let it happen. The more I have to mull over something, the less content I'm with the result, and I regard it as a harbinger of an enormous plot hole if I have to start thinking. The times when I really have to think is when sorting out the chronology if I work with parallel plot lines and have to answer the question what event happens at what time or place. But most of the work happens in my subconscious, maybe because my creativity knows I'm some lazy dog and that I should better spend my time with the actual writing. Maybe that's why I get so many new ideas from dreaming.
I'm totally notorious when it comes to asking other people for help with a plot issue. Usually this happens when I really have no idea of how to go on, so I go and ask some fellow writers or my husband, listen to all of their ideas, then go and write something completely different - not out of disrespect but because I experience a sudden aha effect and realize how it really has to be. Hearing all of the possibilities is important to me because it sets the mind machine in motion, but I'm afraid that my friends think I'm pulling their legs because I never go with one of their suggestions. I have to rely on outside help quite often, just like a motor on strike may need some heavy whacking to start working again. And if I manage to totally screw a novel, I finally have to make up my mind and write down the plot from beginning to end before being able to write one new scene. But my favourite plotting method is when the subconscious does all of the dirty work and all I have to do is writing it down.
Sometimes I think I don't like writing because it's too much work. And I don't like plotting because it can be exhausting. So why do I write at all? Because there's one thing I love: telling others about my ideads, and then being told that they are good ideads. Then, it's fun to spin the idea out. Likewise, it's more fun to read a finished scene to myself or an audience than having to write it, and it's more fun reading a couple of reviews than going through the process of revising a novel. And though I often don't like writing, it's such a great relief to have an idea out off my head so there's room for something new to grow. My imagination is like a garden. The stories grow on their own, there's no tearing and puling at them to make them come out faster. Still, I have to tend, and fertilize, and water, and weed, and sometimes even cut down an uncontrolled growth. And in the end, there's no day goes by without my loving what I do, with all my heart.