by Eric

Question: I can't outline for the life of me. I am told that Outlining is critical to writing a good novel. But I am an organic writer, I come up with ideas as I am typing the story, solving problems in the plot and creating characters only when I need to. I have a premise for a science fiction novel series that I want to write and publish with a passion. But as far as pre-planning goes, all I have are vague ideas of characters, villains, and events that I want to see happen. Will writing organically set me up for a big fall? Am I dooming myself at the beginning by just winging it as I write? Or can I make a successful book series based on the loose premise and ideas I have?

Answer: Don't worry. It may be simply that you are a pantser by nature (one who writes by the seat of his pants without an outline). Many good writers are pantsers.

If so, I suggest you simply go ahead and write a first draft.

However, once that first draft is complete, go back and look at your story. Write your outline then, based on what you have written, and see if the story hangs together. Get feedback from people you trust. See if there are places where you can strengthen the dramatic structure, if there is material that is superfluous. Look for plot holes.

The work of shaping the story is the same. It's just that plotters do most of it before the first draft, while pantsers do most of it after.

(Of course, if you get stuck halfway through the first draft, you can always do some outlining then to get back on track.)

Comments for Outlining

Click here to add your own comments

Jul 10, 2011
The plotting pansrer
by: Anonymous

I started writng my novel by typing instructions to myself and any tiny snippets of dialogue, scene descriptions etc I didn't want to miss capturing as I wrote a full scene.

Everytime I thought up new material - generally out of order to my writing the story - I simply inserted the instruction, which often ran to a couple of typed pages in length, inside square brackets [ ] as well as any missing words like a character i haven't yet named so I could pick up and write any scene in the early stages that really begged for me to flesh out. And then I just deleted everything typed inside the brackets after checking I had included all the elements I had needed to cover. The only thing I'm doing differently as I work on my second 120,000 + word storyline is that instead of deleting my instructiins I am now cutting and pasting them into a second word document because together and all ready in the right order my instructions is actually a very bloated synopsis for my complete story.

I am duel plotter and pantser simultaneously!!

Jan 30, 2012
brilliant comment
by: Amy

you just summed me up completely. I'll scribble out a scene that comes to mind that belongs somewhere else as well as random short descriptions of scenes and the reasoning behind certain things and any snippet of dialogue that I think of, but I never thought of putting the descriptions into their own document. Thank you!

Jan 31, 2012
by: Char

Glad to have shared an idea you can use. I wish someone had suggested that to me when I wrote my first manuscript. I had to learn the hard way. But still, I know better for this time :)

Click here to add your own 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.

search this site the web
search engine by freefind

Celebrating our 2nd year as one of the...

 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