Cooking with Colleen

This spring and summer, I've been following a recipe. A recipe I spent much of the winter crafting. I've listed my ingredients, know the preparation steps. I have what some would consider a good deal of experience cooking up this sort of dish, which happens to be another romantic thriller.

Yet I keep finding myself, as always, tinkering. I stick my spoon into the batter, make a face at the taste, and alter the components. Characters are added, deleted, and combined. Plot elements evolve, collapse, connect. At the halfway point, I have a lot of strong scenes, but the sum total doesn't hang together, and the ending I envisioned, no way that's going to fly.

And that's all as it should be, for a novel's not a cake mix. It's more of a Frankenstein, cobbled together from so many different parts to form a new and living entity. With luck and skill and a little of the pixie dust that causes the willing suspension of disbelief, the writer can disguise the lines where she has sewn the chunks together. But she can't predict the end result. Otherwise, why write it?

So when you write, do you plan in advance? If so, are you ever surprised by the final product? Or do you prefer to write without a recipe?