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?