I’ve been a proud pantser for a while. No outlines for me. I just write and the story comes out. Sometimes. I do a fair amount of rewriting along the way as things unfold and the plot becomes clearer. It’s a bit scary to write without knowing exactly where I’m going, but it’s worked for me. Every time I’ve tried to write an outline, I’ve failed to follow it. It’s just too constrictive.
Until now, that is.
I think it’s safe to say that Thief of Destiny is a bit more complex than Thief of Hope. The scale is much bigger, the stakes are higher, there are two points of view instead of just one. A big theme is that nothing is black and white and the lines between good and evil are murky. I recently came to a point in the book where I realized I had to come up with a plan for moving forward. There’s a war going on and I couldn’t simply pull a battle strategy out of my head without some planning. I’ve gone through much mulling it over, gnashing of teeth, many emails back and forth with my wonderful critique group for ideas, research, and I think I finally have a plan. I’ve even started working on *gasp* an outline. This time I need an outline if I’m going to sync up certain events in the book. I think it’s going to work.
I still don’t know everything that’s going to happen. I can’t write that detailed of an outline. Am I a reformed pantser? Maybe not quite yet. I’ll let you know how it goes when I get to the end of the book.
From another pantser – your situation resonates very well.
Thanks! We’ll see how far I get before I chuck the outline. Although I did enjoy writing it!
I think you’re still a pantser at heart. A few notes here and there to keep you on track is still not relying entirely on an outline. Besides, not matter how much you outline, characters have a way of doing what is least expected…right?
I think that’s true, Mary. My characters never seem to do what I expect them to. Makes it more interesting.
I was a panster for years. I loved the freedom that comes with winging it, watching what your characters will do with each new curve ball you throw at them, and then trying to find a way to tie it all together. Sometimes it worked — which felt glorious — but when it didn’t, the rewrites were messy.
I read a few very good books on story structure which convinced me the endless rewrites I was bogged down in could only be solved by looking at the bones of the story and fixing them, but it also served to nudge me from panster to plotter.
The thing is, I’ve found that the last few stories I plotted as opposed to pansted still had just as many opportunities for winging it, with characters, scenes, and endings, but the funny thing was, my word counts are now bang on instead of rambling on for an extra two or three thousand words. So much easier to edit! And, if I see big problems with the story, I’m usually seeing it as I I hammer out the outline.
I do love the moments of spontaneity in writing, and wondering what the characters are going to do — but I’ve found I can be more creative with those moments and scenes when I already have a through-line, opening and exit for them.
Other people may have a stronger innate sense of plot or structure than I do, and be totally comfortable pantsing everything and have it all work out. It just wasn’t working for me after 8 drafts of a novel that got longer and more unmanageable with every draft (however much I also thought I was getting deeper into the characters and the world).
Thanks for your comments. I agree, I enjoy the freedom of not knowing where the story is going and watching how things play out, sometimes in ways I never expected. But the danger is like you said, you could end up with a lot more rewriting to do. I write at a snail’s pace as it is. My current plotting is pretty sparse, just a few notes scribbled down for each chapter. So there’s lots of room for spontaneity as well. Part of my struggle in writing this book has been a lack of focus. I think this process is going to help.
It’s interesting to see how other people write.
I took writing classes when I was younger, including a Master Class with a bestselling author, and all of them taught the importance of starting with an outline. It didn’t work for me. I always got caught up in telling the story, ended up off track, and couldn’t find my way back to the outlined ending. Every novel I started ended up on the trash pile. Then I learned that some of my favorite authors simply sit down and start writing…and I was finally able to finish a manuscript!
However, I do spend a great deal of time creating the characters and their goal, motivation & conflict (based on Debra Dixon’s terrific book). Once I have those elements in place, the story tells itself. I’m not certain what that makes me — maybe a designer pantser?
Designer pantser–I like it! I don’t think I could ever start with an outline. My critique group has been really helpful in keeping me on track with the goal, motivation, and conflict of my characters.
You know, it took me a while to figure out what the hell “pantser” meant. ;^)