Dean Wesley Smith on writing without an outline

This is a video of Dean Wesley Smith talking about writing without outlining or “writing into the dark.”  He details the process of cycling, which allows for clean copy and cuts revision.

My cycling process is  little different. I can bounce around in the story like a ping ball.  It’s sometimes the previous scene, and sometimes I might jump back to a connecting scene earlier in the book.  I’m somewhat messy when I write.  My creative likes to take all the toys out of the toy chest and toss them on the floor (sometimes in no particular order), then it wanders off and plays with a few and forgets about the others.  So stubs of things get into the story, and never get used.

At the point when I’m doing the climax, I can usually tell because my creative brain gets the sudden urge to cycle through the entire story from the beginning.  Then it’s pulling together everything…taking out those stubs that I completely forgot about and never used anywhere.  The stubs are kind of like flash in the pan ideas.  You know, things that sound exciting when I put them and then later, it has me scratching my head wondering what I expected to do with it.

In a way, cycling is a lot of fun because it keeps me reconnecting with the story!



3 thoughts on “Dean Wesley Smith on writing without an outline

  1. Loyd Jenkins December 11, 2018 / 6:31 pm

    This is a good video about writing. Even if you don’t follow his process, you should know it is both an option and legitimate.

    I find it interesting that you bounce around. Dean has talked about his wife, Kris Rusch, doing something like that.

    I would be interested in hearing more about how you do that. And do you take notes as you go? (What Dean would call outlining)

    BTW, I came here from reading your book on pantsing for the second time. Thank you for that book. It is encouraging.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Linda Maye Adams December 12, 2018 / 6:54 pm

      Loyd, thank for the comments on my book! 🙂

      I believe Kris’ bouncing around is that she writes out of order and then pulls everything together.

      What I do is a little different. I generally write in order (though I’m breaking that a bit on my current book). I can see the higher level of the scenes and how they connect together in my head. So I might be writing scene 36, and my brain connects it to scenes 2, 10, and 22. So I have to cycle all three of those. Scrivener’s a great tool for this because it makes bouncing from scene to scene like this easy.

      For the reverse outlining/notes, I don’t do either. I’ve never been able to successfully reverse outline (I forget to do it and never look at what I do remember to do). Notes–if I need to know what a character is wearing or some other detail, I bounce back to that scene and look it up. It’s the same as the idea of the reverse outline–I have tried to record it, and I still bounce back instead of looking at notes.


      • Loyd Jenkins December 14, 2018 / 9:03 am

        Interesting. Thank you for sharing.


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