Outline? What Outline?

This post is inspired by Liv Rancourt’s A Plotter’s Process.  I’m a pantser, but I have tried outlining.

I ran into horrendous problems on Miasma.  They were so bad that I wasn’t sure if I could fix them.  But I thought trying outlines might help, and I was willing to change my writing process if it did.  So I went from outline to outline, searching for one that clicked with me.  Instead, it was a frustrating and unhelpful experience.  I could not make them work no matter how hard I tried!  The worst was an outline workshop that was “pantser friendly.”  There’s nothing worse than being the only one in class who doesn’t get the material.  I managed to battle my way through the lessons, but when I looked at them later, I had no idea how I did it.  What doing the workshop did teach me was that outlines clash with my creative process.

Please don’t tell me I’ll come over from pantsing eventually.  Or that I don’t get outlines, or aren’t doing them right.   Or my favorite, that I’m outlining and don’t know it.  And I’ve never understand this “Your first draft is your outline” business.  If a writer creates an outline and then writes the story he has a first draft.  If I skip the outline and write the story, all I end up with is an outline?!  That doesn’t make sense!

I’m not broken or deluding myself.  Pantsing is the only way I can write.

I start by taking an idea and writing a summary of it, over and over until I start to get a feel for the story.  It’s really just a launching point so I’m writing with story in mind and not a vague idea.  I’ll also work on a sentence describing the story.

Then I start writing, and I follow the flow of the writing.  If something occurs to me, I put it in, even if I’m not sure what I’m going to do with it.  I’ve often found some of the greatest ideas that shape the story by doing that.  I describe it as throwing paint at the wall to see what sticks.

With characters, I toss one into the story when I need one, and they happen.

What’s your writing process?  How do you work out what the story is?  Have you ever had anyone tell you your writing process was wrong?

6 thoughts on “Outline? What Outline?

  1. Sounds like we write a lot alike. I know my general plan (aka the problem, setting and time frame) and I know the ending (guy gets girl and live happily ever after). Other than that, I’m a let’s-walk-through-that-door-and-see-what-people-we-meet-and-what-comes-from-it kind of writer. How many chapters will it be? Ummm…depends on how many doors we must walk through before the character decides to cooperate with the happily-ever-after-ending. 🙂


  2. Thanks for the shout-out, Linda! Between your post and mine, I seem to definitely be in the minority. Ah well…it’s interesting to learn about different approaches. You never know when you’ll need to try something new.
    Thanks again.


  3. As a pantser, I haven’t given up hope of getting more outlining- compatible but as of now, fraid I’m a throwing-the-paint-on-the-wall kind of writer, too. I will have to check out Diana’s suggestion.


  4. @Diana I’ve looked at the Snowflake in the past. It still has too much planning for me. I often go into my stories without my even naming my main character.

    @Cora, Liv, Carrie: We need a writing book of our own on pantsing!


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