Writing without an outline is like driving without a set destination.
Larry Brooks – who by the way has an excellent blog to learn from – said, “We all start as pantsers. Only some of us, when we understand what elements and aesthetics a story needs to embrace before it will work, tend to adopt the habit of planning for it ahead of time.”
He also said you can write a story without planning it out ahead of time. You can. But... and here’s the kicker for me, how much easier would it have been had you planned it out so you wouldn’t write yourself into a corner and have to figure out how to get out of it?
So my question to you is this... do you want to be a prolific writer? One who can set deadlines and KEEP THEM? Do you want to finish more than one story a year or even finish one story and start a new one? And if you’ve been writing on the same project for over a year now, isn’t it time to try something new?
To tell the truth to you, this is a fairly new concept for me as well but it’s working. Last year I stumbled across two great sites that explained Outlining for me in a way I could understand it. It was simple. And easy for me. I fell in love with the concept and have now become an advocate for outlining. So what websites were they you ask? Holly Lisle’s How to think Sideways course. You don’t have to sign up for the course at all but can learn quite a bit about it just from the numerous articles she has on her site. Here’s the link: http://hollylisle.com/
And the other was Larry Brooke’s blog called Story Fix: http://storyfix.com/
Lots of info there too. So how exactly do you outline. I think it’s a personal choice honestly. Some people tend to outline to the detail and others give just the barest hint of information. I think I fall somewhere in between.
One of the lessons Holly discusses in her course is outlining with index cards. I do the same only on my computer. I break down how many chapters I’m going to roughly have, then take three scenes per chapter and come up with a total number of scenes. Normally, I have twenty chapters with three scenes at about six pages a scene. That equals about sixty scenes total. I give a one liner per scene that describes what’s happening. I know my beginning and my ending. My personal opinion is you need to know where you’re going so that you can write to it.
With that basic outline, I can stray from my original plan a little and still end up where I wanted to go. Since last year I have completed two manuscripts and am currently half way through my third. I don’t know if they will sell but they are definitely learning tools in my hand. If they don’t, I am certain I can move on and write something else and one day I know I will get published. Everyone needs a learning phase and if you rush it, then perhaps you aren’t learning all you can first.
So let’s debate this, are you a pantser or a plotter and why? And if you’re one or the other, are you willing to try the other for your next story just to see which way fits your life style better? Think about it.