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

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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 :)

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