I wake up to cars sluicing through wet streets.  The rain’s hard enough to bring down the leaves.  We haven’t even had that much color change.  Most of them are still green and drying out.  Some maples have turned red but not especially vibrant.

I spend an hour on the story, cycling through the previous chapter.  Hit the next chapter for cycling and I’ll need to gut that one.  It was a rabbit hole and one I don’t want to commit so much to in this story.  I’ve already done hints earlier, so most of the chapter is coming out.  I’m also going to move another part of the scene to another location, so a little rearranging is in order.

Pantsing 101: The Reverse Outline

In his book, lecture, and probably his workshop Writing into the Dark, Dean Wesley Smith talks about a “Reverse Outline.”  What he talks about and what James Scott Bell is as different as dogs and cats.

Obligatory fall photo of a Whippet by Frank Günther

James Scott Bell’s version:  Write the first draft.  Then go through the first draft and outline all the scenes you’ve written.  Then use it for your revision.  It’s probably going to be on a spreadsheet and pretty detailed.  And it puts everything on the revision’s plate.

Dean Wesley Smith’s version: It’s a cycling tool.  He uses a yellow legal pad, jots down some notes after he finishes a scene.  Checks back through it when he’s cycling, like what a character is wearing or making sure there isn’t one of those scenes where a character comes in, looks important, and then never returns.

Outliners always dismiss it, stating it confirms that Dean is outlining.

Here’s the difference:

With a traditional outline, you write the outline, then use it to write the story.

With JSB’s, you write it after you’ve done the first draft and use it to revise your story.  Essentially find the problems in the story after the fact so you can fix them.

With DWS’s, you jot down notes as you write, using it as a quick reference.  You can grab it at any time, flip back through the pages to see what your character was wearing the last time he was on the page.  It can be chicken scratch (and might very well be if your handwriting looks as bad as mine)…and it doesn’t matter.  It’s not something you save.  It’s a working document.

That being said, I’m writing on this topic, and I haven’t successfully used one.  The culture of “You must outline” still makes me want to stay away from it.  However, on my current book, I have been jotting notes on my maps because I get tired of scrolling back to check on a character’s name who appears in Chapter 2 and I can’t remember how to spell it.  Perhaps in the future…