by Rebekah

Question: Does it tend to be better if you plan out the whole story and then write it all out, or to just start writing and see what happens?

Answer: The amount of planning (or plotting) done before the actual writing is different for every writer.

Roughly 80% of writers start with some type of outline. Sometimes this is a single paragraph. Sometimes it is ten pages. Some people fill thick notebooks with background information, character sketches, maps, plot charts, research, etc.

Then again, some writers just start writing and build the story as they go along. (I call these "pantsers," because they write by the seat of their pants.)

Some writers don't think about the end until they get there. Others find it easier to write when they know where they are going.

Both approaches have advantages and disadvantages. Pantsers are more likely to get stuck or waste time on dead ends but enjoy the thrill of discovering the story in the writing. Plotters sacrifice some spontaneity, and plotting takes time, but plotters can also solve many plot problems ahead of time and their stories often need less revision.

Of course, you can also take a hybrid approach. Start with some kind of outline so the story ideas make sense. If you get better ideas in the writing, revise your outline to make sure the new direction is better than the old before you get too far into it.

You can also write a little, then plot a little, then write a little more, etc.

Click here to post comments

Join in and submit your own question/topic! It's easy to do. How? Simply click here to return to Questions About Novel Writing.

 Step-by-Step Novel Planning Workbook

NEW! Make Money Writing Nonfiction Articles

"I've read more than fifty books on writing, writing novels, etc., but your website has the most useful and practical guidance. Now that I understand how a novel is structured, I will rewrite mine, confident that it will be a more interesting novel." - Lloyd Edwards

"Thanks to your "Create a Plot Outline in 8 Easy Steps," I was able to take a story that I simply just fooled around with and went willy nilly all over, into a clearly defined, intriguing battle where two characters fight to keep their relationship intact, and try to find a balance in control of themselves and their lives. Thanks to you, I'm not ashamed of the poor organization of my writing." - Nommanic Ragus

"I am so glad I found your site. It has helped me in so many ways, and has given me more confidence about myself and my work. Thank you for making this valuable resource, for me and my fellow writers. Perhaps you'll hear about me someday...I'll owe it to you." - Ruth, Milton, U.S.A.

"I never knew what to do with all the characters in my head, but since discovering Dramatica I am writing again in my spare time. Thank you for making this available. Yes, it is a bit complex, and it does take time, but I love it because it works." - Colin Shoeman

"I came across your website by chance. It is a plethora of knowledge, written in a simplistic way to help aspiring writers. I truly appreciate all of the information you have provided to help me successfully (relative term) write my novel. Thank you very much!" - Leo T. Rollins

"I can honestly say that this is the first website that is really helpful. You manage to answer complex questions in relatively short articles and with really intelligent answers. Thank you for taking the time to write these articles and sharing them so generously." - Chrystelle Nash

"...had no idea that a simple click would give me such a wealth of valuable information. The site not only offered extremely clear and helpful instructions but was a very enjoyable read as well. The education from your wonderful site has made me a better writer and your words have inspired me to get back to work on my novel. I wish to give you a heartfelt thanks for How to Write a Book Now, sir." -- Mike Chiero