Monday, January 5, 2015

Headlight Goals by Kell Andrews

With the Headlight Method, you only need to see what's coming next -- works for me for both writing and other goals.
I'm working on a new novel, one that I have outlined in a synopsis but no further. I have a clear creative vision, but not a clear outline. I have novels that have been waylaid in the process of outlining, where I couldn't solve a plot point and then the whole thing fell apart. As much as outlines have helped me in the past, this time I'm using the Headlight Method, which I first learned of in James Scott Bell's indispensable reference, Plot & Structure.

E.L. Doctorow is credited with the saying, "Writing is like driving a car at night. You can only see as far as the headlights, but you make the whole trip that way."

Neither pantser nor plotter am I, but something between. I need to see the next step, but if I have to have every detail done, I will never be done.

In the Headlight Method, you only need see as far as what's in your headlights -- you write scene by scene. When you get to the end of each, ask what next? What is the character's emotional state? What is the next action the character needs to take?

I have a synopsis; I know where I'm going. I use the Headlight Method for what's next.

This is going to be my approach to plotting but also writing goals, and other goals for 2015 too. When I have think about how long it will take me to write 100,000 words, I'm daunted. But I can think about 10K words, I can see my way to what's next. Similarly, if I have to think about how to achieve a long-term health goal or a large financial goal, I'm overwhelmed. But if I can plan until the end of this month, I can be ready for next month.

So instead of New Year's Resolutions or New Year's goals, I have goals for what's next in my headlights -- for this month, this week, or today.

Or perhaps just next 30 minutes for  a writing sprint to get in another 500 words or another scene. Then I'm ready for what's next.

More explanation of the Headlights Method:
How to Outline a Novel Using the Headlights Method


  1. Thank you so much, Kell. I definitely need to try the headlight method. I'm a pantser who would prefer to be an organized plotter, but when I've tried outlining I lose the will to write the book. I've always written in scenes, so this sounds like something I could handle.

  2. I am definitely a Headlight writer, but soon I need to write a synopsis as a proposal for an option book -- so THANKS for the link! I've never been able to satisfactorily outline a book without panstering my way through it first!

  3. Yes, thanks for the link. Headlighter all the way!

  4. This quote has gotten me through many a draft. A whole book is overwhelming. What's just in front of me is doable.

  5. Hmm. I've always been an out-liner, but a thousand words of outline have never fully informed tens of thousands of words of story to the point where there wasn't some head-lighting along the way. Great image, Kell!

  6. And sometimes you feel like it's you in the headlights! Thanks for this post, Kelly. As I am deep into BOOK 3, I sometimes cannot see past the end of my nose.

  7. The idea of headlights has helped me a lot -- I have at least one book that fell apart before I started because I didn't know what was going to happen on page 200. I need more faith that I'll figure it out!


Thanks for adding to the mayhem!