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fivetoesten
07-13-2013, 10:19 PM
I have a question for those of you who prefer to write by the seat of your pants. How do you do it with a giant 100,000 word novel? There's just so much going on in one I'm not sure how you could possibly avoid some kind of outline.

How do you type one word after another and end up with a novel? With a long painful revision process?

williemeikle
07-13-2013, 10:37 PM
I usually have an outline - and I usually blow it off as soon as I start to write. Then, rather than spending my time re-hashing the outline after every writing session, I prefer to just write and see where it takes me.

That usually means I also do a lot of revising on the hoof - about 2/3 actual writing to 1/3 revising on any given day.

But it works for me. I'm currently on my 21st novel.

Mr Flibble
07-13-2013, 10:39 PM
One step at a time.

I'm aware of what all the characters are doing, even if they aren't on the stage. One acts, causing another to act/react, which causes....and then there you have your plot.

If you know who your characters are, what they want and what they are prepared to do to get it...it's easy. Well, easy for me anyway. Some people find it easier to plot it all out first. I don't do much revision afterwards as a rule (I may add a scene I find I need, or swap them around, but it's mostly just cleaning up small inconsistencies.) except what an editor suggests.

Cathy C
07-13-2013, 10:40 PM
While I'm a plotter, my co-author is a pantser. She says she sits down to type and it's like a character is standing behind her, dictating what happens. I don't really understand it either, and I've asked several well-known authors who write this way. Apparently it's a common event that pantsers are typing what the characters tell them. :Shrug:

Kitty27
07-13-2013, 11:01 PM
Cathy C has it right.

I am a pantser and each character speaks to me when I write. I hardly ever do outlines,unless it's epic fantasy novels. For them,I create what I call story bibles because there is a LOT going on.


It's funny how writer buddies can balance each other out. My friend is a diehard planner. She helped me with the story bible idea and I help her by firmly explaining it's time to take her hands off a fifty page outline( where the color of each character's drawers are detailed.) and just WRITE.


For all my other novels,things just flow. I know the plot,where things are going to go,who will die,etc. No outline needed whatsoever and off I go!

lilyWhite
07-13-2013, 11:08 PM
Personally? Rather easily, to be honest. I'll generally think of major scenes that will happen later in the book, think up major characters, and then just start writing from what seems like a good place to start. I never have any sort of outline of how the story will go. Instead of deciding what everyone will do at every step of the way in advance, I think of how the characters at that point would react to what is happening around them, which often leads to events not going the way that I had initially thought of them. That's not a bad thing, in most cases.

It's also mainly because I don't care for writing a novel from an outline at all. For me, part of the fun is seeing where the story goes, how it grows beyond what I've started with, and sticking to an outline just takes the fun out of it.

M.T.Logue
07-13-2013, 11:17 PM
I don't even think that hard about it. It just happens. I'll write and write until I don't know where the story and characters should go from here, then I'll stop. By the time I sit down to write again, I've had a new idea of where the story should go. It helps keep the process fresh and entertaining, for me.

My brain also works overtime trying to keep track of all the ideas and plotlines.

Buffysquirrel
07-13-2013, 11:28 PM
I hold the book in my head. I may not know exactly where I'm going but I know where I've been and that, inevitably, guides where I'm going next.

Linda Adams
07-13-2013, 11:33 PM
How do you type one word after another and end up with a novel?

I just start writing and follow the front of the story. I may have absolutely no idea what's going to happen next or a few scenes ahead until I write it. All I do is make sure what I'm working on connects to the last scene.



With a long painful revision process?

There's no revision process. If it doesn't work, I redraft.

rugcat
07-13-2013, 11:36 PM
I don't think most of us have a choice. I'd love to be able to outline; it would make life so much easier. But it's not the way my creative process works. I'm a pantser because it's the only way I can get a novel done.

I know successful authors who are basically non-linear thinkers. More than just pantsers, they simply don't think in narrative linear terms. They have a hell of a time pulling the various scenes and directions into a coherent whole -- but the only thing that counts is the final product.

Sometimes it's just an idea -- a boy comes home one day to discover his mother isn't really his mother any more. What does he do? How does he handle it. What exactly did happen to his mother, and why? Writing it is the only way to find out.

Sometimes I do have a vague outline in my head -- say, people start disappearing and turning up dead in peculiar ways. Including the MCs girlfriend. (Or boyfriend) My MC needs to figure out why it's happening and who's behind it -- and so do I.

And usually there's a twist that comes out of nowhere but makes sense, though I still don't know the answer -- like all the victims were related in some way. But sometimes there's a twist i didn't see coming at all -- oops, the victims are actually alive, after all.

Sometimes I can't make it work and have to abandon that line, but usually I can go back through the ms and change parts of it, add a few things, and voila -- without having to rewrite the whole thing, there's a whole new plot and direction that makes sense.

And about 3/4 of the way through it all starts to come together and I know the ending and how it will tie up all those loose ends.

It's not an efficient way to write a novel, imo. But as I said, it's not always a matter of choice. I'm working on my seventh novel, and I still can't do it any other way.

DeleyanLee
07-13-2013, 11:37 PM
How do I "pants" an entire novel?

One word at a time.

And I do it by trusting the story and not rushing blindly through the words. I spend time thinking about where the story's been, where I think it's going, and to read what I have when I have questions.

I figured out plots out before hand for years, and they always changed so very much so often, I figured it wasn't worth writing out. And there's no sense to me in writing an outline for what I've written, since my questions are always with minutiae, not with big events (those, I keep in my head just fine). *shrug*

This feels a while pile more natural to me than figuring it all out first.

April Days
07-13-2013, 11:44 PM
It's also mainly because I don't care for writing a novel from an outline at all. For me, part of the fun is seeing where the story goes, how it grows beyond what I've started with, and sticking to an outline just takes the fun out of it.

This.

Exactly.

Motley
07-13-2013, 11:55 PM
I pants pretty much everything I write. I sit down and write like others have said: the characters share their lives with me and I record them the best I can. After I'm done writing for the day, sometimes they tell me where I screwed up. Then I go fix it the next day and then carry on where I left off.

Things usually turn out OK.

Filigree
07-14-2013, 12:06 AM
My debut was a 100K novel that I pantsed for about 2/3 of it, in around two months of writing time.

I often pants a project by seeing if it can fit within the stupidly-large parameters of an ongoing worldbuilding hobby. In the debut's case, I used a space opera setting I'd made and abandoned for my first-written novel (from way too long ago).

My debut started with one line of dialog leading into a very bad situation for a main character whose real name I didn't even know yet. I went forward by asking 'what is worse than this moment, right now, for this guy?' 'Who can rescue him?' 'What are the immediate and ultimate costs of that rescue?'

Because I like perverting tropes, I played with the rescued-princess theme a bit, and was startled to find a whole other set of universe-notes that slotted neatly into the story. I had the quest, the conflict, and several possible resolutions to each new disaster. Once I'd established enough individual personalities in the characters, I could let my brain toss them into various pits to see what they did. Then it was just a matter of setting my scene-by-scene goals. I wrote a large part of the book in my head, broken into scenes, while working at non-writing projects. That trained me to get into writing mindset very quickly whenever I had the chance to get near the keyboard.

I also outline stories - but I know that if a better option comes up through pantsing, I'm probably going to choose it.

willietheshakes
07-14-2013, 12:07 AM
From Shakespeare in Love:

Hugh Fennyman: So what do we do?

Philip Henslowe: Nothing. Strangely enough, it all turns out well.

Hugh Fennyman: How?

Philip Henslowe: I don't know. It's a mystery.

GingerGunlock
07-14-2013, 12:07 AM
If I do outline, I rarely stick to it. It's kind of the "pregame" to the real writing, and sometimes I only do it if I'm preparing for a NaNoWriMo, so I don't lose anything.

Really, when I try to write an outline, it's like writing the bones of a novel; the structure, without the payoff (for me). I'd really much rather write the novel. I do keep track of ideas that I have that need to get added into the earlier work, and I keep track of passages that I'm "writing towards". I've not yet written a single 100,000 work, but I've got one 80,000 word one that I wrote in this manner, and I think works all right. We'll see how my first readers think :D

kuwisdelu
07-14-2013, 12:07 AM
What I can't figure out is how outliners can outline a scene without having written what happens before it? Even if you have an idea of what should happen in a scene, how do you know what really happens until you write it?

I usually have an idea of where I want to go, sometimes more concrete than others. But I can't really know what happens in the next scene until I've experienced the scenes before it, so outlining is kind of fruitless for me (and tends to kill the fun).

It's kind of like how I have to go back and read a whole page to figure out if a word choice in the very last line is any good. (Everyone does that, right?)

I plan short stories out more than novels, because they have to be tighter. Time is more malleable in a longer work. I still don't really outline, but I have to plot out a short story more methodically.


I know successful authors who are basically non-linear thinkers. More than just pantsers, they simply don't think in narrative linear terms. They have a hell of a time pulling the various scenes and directions into a coherent whole -- but the only thing that counts is the final product.

That's me. Oftentimes my narratives are nonlinear, too. I can't write scenes out-of-order from how I want them to appear in the finished product, but I write time out-of-order.

Filigree
07-14-2013, 12:33 AM
I agree with Kuwi and Buffy: I have to hold the whole book in my head, so different scenes can organically grow from previous ones. As I get older, I have to take notes within the body of the mms, or in windows on separate monitors. I don't use writing software, since my brain balks at separating that far from the story.

As for 'how do you hold a whole book in your head?' I don't know. It's easier after holding much bigger made-up histories.

morrighan
07-14-2013, 12:42 AM
I have a question for those of you who prefer to write by the seat of your pants. How do you do it with a giant 100,000 word novel? There's just so much going on in one I'm not sure how you could possibly avoid some kind of outline.

How do you type one word after another and end up with a novel? With a long painful revision process?

I've discovered that I'm more a pantser than a plotter, although I do have an idea of an ending already in mind. I see the whole story as a sandwich with the two pieces of bread (my beginning and end) already formed (although the ending could change), and all I have to do now is decide what my fillings will be. Like being at Subway or even better, the buffet line at Mandalay Bay :)

I took screenwriting classes years ago and loosely subscribe to Syd Field's Screenplay outline, along with Christopher Vogler's Hero's Journey, when I write my stories. Always have the idea of the beginning and end in mind and fill it in with the rest of the acts later. Sometimes my beginning will change, like it will with the novel I'm working on now, as I'm finding as I reach 65K words, that the first 3 chapters are weak, but I'll worry about it when it's all done.

waylander
07-14-2013, 12:45 AM
You just do it. Follow the plot logic. Something happens, your POV character will react this way because that's the sort of person they are, the consequence is this, they deal with it. Follow the arrows on the floor, thus the plot advances and the novel proceeds.
I must admit it does help if I know where everything ends. I've written one novel where I knew this and one where I didn't.

Mr Flibble
07-14-2013, 12:59 AM
I agree with Kuwi and Buffy: I have to hold the whole book in my head, so different scenes can organically grow from previous ones.

Oh, ayup. If you keep it in your head the plot bunnies can get to know each other and breed. (Once it's written down, I no longer need to think of it, my brain thinks, so I'm effectively giving my plot bunny the snip)

jaksen
07-14-2013, 01:27 AM
I write without an outline, too, and so far have only short stories published. But I have NO IDEA how things will 'turn out' until I write them. So I love it when a friend says, hey I figured out who the killer is on page 6 and I think to myself...

I didn't know 'til page 26.

btw my stories are long, though sold as short stories. Some are novella-length. Just the same, I figure it out as I go.

Jim Riley
07-14-2013, 01:44 AM
I don't like the restrictions of outlines. For instance, in the ms I'm working on now, the MC and a teenage girl are stranded in the middle of the Atchafalaya Basin. I had no idea they would end up there since the story began in south Mississippi. I'm not sure how long they will be there or how they will get out, but the excitement generated by the alligators, cottonmouth snakes and other critters was too much to pass up after they were stranded.

Hopefully, they will get out by the end of the novel. I'm using the same characters in several books and I'd hate to lose these two.

Carlene
07-14-2013, 01:46 AM
I'm a pantser too - with all 11 (so far) published novels. To me, part of the fun of writing a book is seeing what comes next. If I had a plot, well, i'd know all about the book and wouldn't bother writing it. In at least half my novels, I've had a character just walk in, sit down and refuse to leave the story. I LOVE when that happens.

Carlene

jeffo20
07-14-2013, 01:58 AM
I have a question for those of you who prefer to write by the seat of your pants. How do you do it with a giant 100,000 word novel? It's easy, considering you don't know how big it's going to be when you start.

Not that it's easy, because it isn't. I do a lot of 'pre-thinking', so when I have time to write, I'm sort of transcribing scenes and dialogue that have already happened in my head.


How do you type one word after another and end up with a novel? With a long painful revision process?I don't know if my revision process is any longer or more painful than anyone else's. I read the entire manuscript and make notes galore: cut this, move that, said this already, add something about.... When it comes time to making those changes, I just do it, again with some prethinking, and sometimes some notes about the sort of things I want to add.

Little Anonymous Me
07-14-2013, 02:51 AM
For me, part of the fun is seeing where the story goes, how it grows beyond what I've started with, and sticking to an outline just takes the fun out of it.


Outlines aren't all "This and only this will happen from A to B because reasons." :tongue I cannot write without an outline. Not a damn thing. But I'm never caged in by one, because they're fluid, and they change as I write and I discover outcome X isn't likely anymore, or that I skipped W and need to backtrack before I can get to Y. My outline for one WIP has changed 3 times as I'm writing the story. And it'll probably continue to change as I get new ideas or kill people who previously had a shot at living.

Just tossing that out there.


And I'm totally blown away by people who don't use them. Can I peek inside your brain to see if the wires are different colors? ;)

kuwisdelu
07-14-2013, 03:03 AM
Outlines aren't all "This and only this will happen from A to B because reasons." :tongue I cannot write without an outline. Not a damn thing. But I'm never caged in by one, because they're fluid, and they change as I write and I discover outcome X isn't likely anymore, or that I skipped W and need to backtrack before I can get to Y. My outline for one WIP has changed 3 times as I'm writing the story.
...
And I'm totally blown away by people who don't use them. Can I peek inside your brain to see if the wires are different colors? ;)

I know outlines can change, but I figure why bother making one if its going to change anyway?

I do tend to jot a few lines that hit the main themes of the current and very next chapter to quickly re-orient myself after breaks from writing, but any farther than that and it's like writing fortune cookies.

Axordil
07-14-2013, 03:10 AM
Sometimes the story comes before the words, sometimes not. I've started writing a scene and realized a thousand words in it's a novel, not a short story. Strangely, the opposite never happens...

Before I get very far in, though, I try to think through where I'd like it to end up. Usually it ends up close. After that, I can determine where various cruxes are likely to occur and pace accordingly. Once in a while I'll have a moment of mid-course inspiration and redo some of the above.

I did write one novel with some pretty intricate interwoven plots that required a chapter-by-chapter spreadsheet to maintain synchronization. That was as close to a real outline as I think I've come, in that I sketched out what had to happen when.

Devil Ledbetter
07-14-2013, 03:11 AM
I have a question for those of you who prefer to write by the seat of your pants. How do you do it with a giant 100,000 word novel? There's just so much going on in one I'm not sure how you could possibly avoid some kind of outline.

How do you type one word after another and end up with a novel? With a long painful revision process?

Since you ask, I just write an enormous 100,000-word pile of nonsensical horse manure and cry and cry and rip my hair out because I don't know how to write an outline. I mean, A B C 123 is so hard, especially when you throw in upper and lower case and Roman numerals. I can only hold one or two ideas in my head at a time, and I can't remember anything that was going on in the story, so when I get to 100,000 words I just give up and start a new novel because pantsing is impossible.

Don't try it.

/sarcasm

Little Anonymous Me
07-14-2013, 03:13 AM
any farther than that and it's like writing fortune cookies.


:ROFL:


Now I have a craving for Chinese food....

CheshireCat
07-14-2013, 03:49 AM
Another pantser. And ... I just write. Have a scene in mind, or a character, or a question -- and start writing. I've always done it that way. Start the workday, usually, by going over whatever I wrote the day before. Maybe tweak, maybe not. Then just keep going.

Eventually, I have a book. Most don't need anything but minor tweaking in the revision process, which is after my agent and editor have read it with fresh eyes.

This works for me. Outlines don't.

So this is how I work.

Jersey Chick
07-14-2013, 04:04 AM
I'd so love to be able to outline. I've tried, and either I toss it because that's not how the story ends up going or I find I can't write the story at all because it seems like the fun part (the discovery of what's going to happen) is gone.

I'm a pantser. Kind of like I'm left-handed. It's just how I work and it works for me. I always know how the story ends, but I rarely know how the characters get there until they tell me. :)

The closest I get to outlining is a character family tree outline, but I don't think that really counts.

shadowwalker
07-14-2013, 04:45 AM
How do we write a whole novel this way? As you yourself stated - one word at a time. And some of us edit/revise as we go, so there is no massive revision/rewrite at the end. The difference between pantsing and outlining? We put in all the details as we write the outline.

saizine
07-14-2013, 06:06 AM
I consider myself a plotter, and write with a fluid outline, but if I really look at how I work then I suppose some might think I'm a combination plotter/pantser. I don't necessarily have to know how a piece will end; I do need to know what I'm building to in the climax, but I don't have to know exactly how I'm going to get there or how it's going to end.

I have an idea, and start plotting it out with a v. loose outline--often just snippets of sentences I've written spontaneously, dialogue, notes, etc. When I get stuck, or reach a bit of an impasse, I put down the outline and start writing. Often the mere act of writing will give me ideas for where to go with the outline, or what needs to change, or what I'm going to do next. So I set down the manuscript, plot out as much as I can, then go back to the manuscript. Often by the time I'm 50%-60% through the draft, I have a complete outline.

So, in conclusion: I rarely start with a complete outline, but I never start without an incomplete one.

There doesn't have to be a massive divide between plotters and pansters. You can do either, or both. What's important is to accept the legitimacy of someone else's method as it works for them.


I'd so love to be able to outline. I've tried, and either I toss it because that's not how the story ends up going or I find I can't write the story at all because it seems like the fun part (the discovery of what's going to happen) is gone.

That's something that I think is the key difference between plotters and pansters. Although I plot out what happens (in stages), I still find enjoyment in changing my idea of a plot point into an actual scene, and writing it out. The 'fun' isn't lost because I know what happens; for me, that's just the tip of the iceberg. It's the beginning of the fun part.

triceretops
07-14-2013, 06:16 AM
I just write complete character profiles, along with names of cities, minor characters, locations, time elements, organizations, companies and other things that are bound to be repeated throughout. Otherwise, I'm on the fly in a white hot streak with no slowing down. My basic outline is three acts, I guess:

Run 'em up a tree; throw stones at him/her; let 'em down out of the tree. Beginning--middle--end.

tri

Rachel Udin
07-14-2013, 06:26 AM
I've done outlining, mile stoning (set out road signs to hit) and just improvising. (which is a more efficient way of saying it).

I know, I don't belong to one team... and people think I'm some kind of freak for liking the different forms. =P (Joking)

Here's what I find...

Outliners tend to write faster once they have an outline. They can do it ten times faster. However, sometimes the outlines are so focused on the events that in order to get the character to point B, from A, the writer will box in the character and change them. (Patrick Rothfuss admitted to doing something like this as well.) This leads to problems with the characterization and failing to realize that what's being written is getting more and more predictable as the character isn't dictating the actions. (So you need to revise the outline). The upside is that the event structure if done well can be surprising. Also lends itself to certain genres over others.

Milestones are where you try to hit sign posts. Mille Bourne... So you write a chapter heading and you want to hit that event on the journey to the final. The strengths are that you usually know where you are going... and that you have set out events. It's flexible enough that you can get characters to go there without too much restriction.

Downside is that you write only your favorite scenes... and there might be extra scenes.

Improvising (which makes more sense to the non-writer and is used in acting). Has stronger characters, generally, but sometimes maze events and lots of editing to do. The problem is that if you let your characters run wild, you're pretty much giving Freud justification for saying that your subconcious is ruling you. Generally events can be more surprising and I find that more intuitive people like this method as it's more by instinct. You really, really need to reign in your characters a little and edit, edit edit your events. (Also the info dump that occurs to you--store it).

So for the outliner, this is what I would say to you: For the people who improvise, what they are doing is using a large amount of intuition to build events based on the characters and initial idea they have. Basically driving with instinct. They are doing this because it creates for stronger characters, impulses and it's harder for a reader to track. At the same time, foreshadowing and doing twists is much harder since there is no base plan. You don't know where they are going? They don't either.

Suspense, Horror, some types of Science Fiction and Fantasy thrive well using this.

However, I think for all three camps, you should learn a bit of the others to pull yourself out of ruts and because certain genres of writing do better when you can use a different style. Mixing it up also means you keep your reader on edge since they don't know what you'll do next.

Now, people who write out of order and improvise, I've been told are the truly crazy ones. =P (I've done that too).

Linda Adams
07-14-2013, 06:34 AM
However, I think for all three camps, you should learn a bit of the others to pull yourself out of ruts and because certain genres of writing do better when you can use a different style. Mixing it up also means you keep your reader on edge since they don't know what you'll do next..

Not always possible for everyone. I'm very right-brained, and it's just not the way my mind works. I can stand a teeny, tiny bit of structure (in the form of connecting my current scene to my last), but any more than that and my process crashes and burns very quickly.

lolchemist
07-14-2013, 06:39 AM
It can be ridiculously easy especially if you only have one storyline (rather than an 'A story' a 'B story' a 'C story' etc. that you have to weave,) you already know the ending and you spend the whole book in the POV of one character.

For example if someone were to hire you to write a 15k word children's chapter book retelling of Cinderella starring cuddly kittens, you probably could do it without an outline and just write it from beginning to end. You already know the story and the characters and the plot and the action in your head, there are no side-stories to weave in and you stay in Cinder-kitten's head the whole time. Easy-peasy! For a lot of pantsers, even a 100k book with tons of side stories, POVs and such can still feel like that.

DancingMaenid
07-14-2013, 06:48 AM
I would say I'm a little in between a pantser and a plotter. I do usually have a good idea of what's going to happen before I start writing. I'll have a lot of key scenes in mind. Sometimes I'll more or less have the whole story in my head. But I don't really outline, and I find that working with a written outline kills my desire to write the story. It feels too forced to me, and I don't feel like I can plan everything until I start writing and see where things go. Each scene builds on the last, and I use what I've written as a guide for what needs to come next.

That said, I have had a couple bad experiences where I just didn't have enough of an idea of where the story was going, or where the novel got really off track in a way that I hated. This was mainly a problem when I was younger, and I think I learned from it.


I agree with Kuwi and Buffy: I have to hold the whole book in my head, so different scenes can organically grow from previous ones. As I get older, I have to take notes within the body of the mms, or in windows on separate monitors. I don't use writing software, since my brain balks at separating that far from the story.

As for 'how do you hold a whole book in your head?' I don't know. It's easier after holding much bigger made-up histories.

Yep, I can relate to this a lot. I'm generally good at keeping my stories in my head.

And I think about my stories a lot when I'm not writing them. So when I do sit down to write, I don't usually feel like I'm starting with nothing, even if I don't have a firm plan in place.


It's easy, considering you don't know how big it's going to be when you start.

Yeah, this has definitely happened to me. I thought one of my current WIPs was going to be about 30k. It's now 75k. Oops.


Not that it's easy, because it isn't. I do a lot of 'pre-thinking', so when I have time to write, I'm sort of transcribing scenes and dialogue that have already happened in my head.


Yep, this is how it usually goes for me.

lolchemist
07-14-2013, 06:56 AM
I know successful authors who are basically non-linear thinkers. More than just pantsers, they simply don't think in narrative linear terms. They have a hell of a time pulling the various scenes and directions into a coherent whole -- but the only thing that counts is the final product.

This is literally me! I call the random scenes I write (I have to save one scene per word doc, they're so non-linear) my puzzle pieces. I literally puke out 1000+ puzzle pieces and then sit down and piece them all together. It's awful and wonderful!

Like why does a scene from chapter 34 come to me right after a scene from chapter 1 right after a scene from book 2 right after a scene from chapter 28 all in one night? BRAIN WHAT ARE YOU DOING???

Do you have any links or any other info about this or these writers you mentioned? I'm so curious about why I write the way I do!

blacbird
07-14-2013, 07:03 AM
How do you do it with a giant 100,000 word novel? . . . .

How do you type one word after another and end up with a novel? With a long painful revision process?

100,000 words is not a "giant" novel. It's about average. So here's what you do:

First, you type "The". That gets you down to 99,999 words. Then a noun; that gets you down to 99,998. After that a verb gets you to 99,997.

Repeat, with some added prepositions, adjectives, conjunctions, adverbs, organized into various combinations of clauses and phrases.

Until done.

I start with a story concept, which may or may not involve either a beginning or an ending. But it always involves characters who arise in my head, and curiosity about how they would interact within the story concept. Then I think, and work, in scenes. These are subliminally connected, probably, but it's not unusual for me to throw out some scene-attempts, because they didn't play well with others.

At some point, maybe ~1/2 way along or so, I reach where I need to put some bullet points together. That, I suppose, is a form of outline, but it's never very formal.

Lots of successful writers don't even do that much outlining. John Saul comes to mind; I saw him address this question at a panel I attended at a well-known writers conference.

The first and still bestest unpublishable novel I've written started with a simple scene involving two characters performing a menial task of physical labor in a wartime situation. That scene worked, and generated further scenes, more characters, and more conflict among them.

I don't think you need to plan everything out in advance in some elaborate structural framework. In fact, I think for some writers at least, that tends to produce drab, lifeless write-by-number prose. I've critiqued plenty of manuscripts that, to me, suffer from this problem.

caw

thepicpic
07-14-2013, 11:22 AM
The closest thing I get to outlining is having a particular scene in mind that I want to get to. However, I don't write out of order, otherwise I'd end up with four or five disjointed chapters and no desire to fill in the rest. The rest is just making it up as I go along. Yeah, I get days where that gut instinct and I don't get along. But it's balanced by the days where, because I didn't know about it until the betrayal, my readers didn't spot the traitor in the team's midst until it was too late.

Mr Flibble
07-14-2013, 03:28 PM
At the same time, foreshadowing and doing twists is much harder since there is no base plan.

Weirdly, not always.

I've lost count of the times I've realised something (like, who the bad guy is) half way or more through and then found the foreshadowing is already there*. Or the times I've popped in something on the spur of the moment that later becomes vital to the plot.

It's a bit spooky sometimes...



*Also, foreshadowing should be subtle, so even if it isn't there, or not enough, all it takes is a tweak.

DeleyanLee
07-14-2013, 05:51 PM
Now, people who write out of order and improvise, I've been told are the truly crazy ones. =P (I've done that too).

I've beta'd for a published friend who does this for years. It makes brainstorming with her a challenge for my usually good memory. She amazes me.


Do you have any links or any other info about this or these writers you mentioned? I'm so curious about why I write the way I do!

I don't know who rugcat knows, but my friend is Wen Spencer (http://www.wenspencer.com/). She doesn't even get something out of the beginning all the time, but when she's got 40-50K of the book, she starts looking at everything and tries to figure out how to tie it all together--all the while still getting random pieces that have to be crammed in.

She must be doing something right, since she's getting hard covers, but my brain hurts just watching her.

TaintedBoo
07-14-2013, 06:06 PM
I'm a half-pantser. I start with a handful of characters, a situation, an end (that always, always changes), and a scene. I develop all of those on index cards, then figure out where I want them to start. Then I just keep writing until I hit a wall.
Usually I hit that wall around 10k to 15k words, then I outline the rest of the story (which always changes as I go too) to give myself direction, and make sure everyone is still staying with the plot and we're all headed in the same direction. It's like herding cattle sometimes.

DeleyanLee
07-14-2013, 06:07 PM
Improvising (which makes more sense to the non-writer and is used in acting). Has stronger characters, generally, but sometimes maze events and lots of editing to do. The problem is that if you let your characters run wild, you're pretty much giving Freud justification for saying that your subconcious is ruling you. Generally events can be more surprising and I find that more intuitive people like this method as it's more by instinct. You really, really need to reign in your characters a little and edit, edit edit your events. (Also the info dump that occurs to you--store it).

Interestingly, I've never had that problem--of characters just "running wild" or found a need to edit the events (or even info dump).

I find that Stephen King's analogy in On Writing is actually correct: The idea for the story is like finding a fossil in the dirt. I know it's a story, but I don't know exactly what kind of story. The writing process is like excavation of a dinosaur, I have a place to start and have to keep clearing non-story stuff away until I can tell what it is I've got. Once I have a clue what it is, then I have a better idea where to look for story (and that can be surprising), but what I do have is what is NOT story, so I can keep on track much better.

I've never had this rambling that you seemed to have experienced.

At the same time, foreshadowing and doing twists is much harder since there is no base plan. You don't know where they are going? They don't either.

Again, my experience is exactly the opposite. By the time I get the conscious inspiration to do something really cool, and go back to foreshadow it, 98% of the time all the foreshadowing is already there. The story (my creative subconscious, whatever you want to call it) already incorporated it, I just hadn't become aware of what it was doing. The most I usually have to do is strengthen what's already there.

It's one of the delights of writing for me: that little moment of discovery of how it all seems to tie together without my having to pre-plan it.

Rachel Udin
07-14-2013, 06:57 PM
Not always possible for everyone. I'm very right-brained, and it's just not the way my mind works. I can stand a teeny, tiny bit of structure (in the form of connecting my current scene to my last), but any more than that and my process crashes and burns very quickly.
I think one should at least *try* other methods before saying this is the only way. Going against your nature often teaches you things you can borrow from the other camps.

***

I'm not saying that writing the genres that usually take outlining can't be done in other ways, but I think it's much harder to say, make a historical novel if you don't have an outline. It's really hard to do a historical novel on say the life of George Washington on the fly. =P (You at least need the milestones). George Washington cut down the cherry tree that he did not receive until he was in his sixties creating a lifetime paradox...

I dislike the word plotters since we all plot. =P You have no plot? What? You have no story. Plot =character+conflict+events... uhh... so if you have none of those how do you have a story? BTW, not everyone who plots is a story writer either... *cough* bank robbers. (Characters overcoming conflicts and events... isn't that a plan to rob a bank?) I know, I know, but it's word geeking...

As for Author Lists, I have that, been collecting them since I have a habit of reading author notes. (Doesn't anyone else do that... Maybe just me...)

Outliners
Journalists. 100% of journalists I've met (so far) are outliners. They know exactly everything in the article, edit by the outline and do it by the outline. Very few survive in this field without an outline. (I've heard of them, but they are so few and usually in specialized fields.)

Patrick Rothfuss is an outliner (IIRC). He talked about it quite a bit. =P He said it on this google video thing.

Brandon Sanderson. He doesn't use ABC, but he does say he knows every content of the scnes and writes very quickly. That's a mark of an outliner.

Mary Robinette Kowal is also an outliner. She knows exactly all of the events, how they connect, and has talked about it extensively.

Michael Stackpole is a strict outliner. I mean really, really strict.

Connie Willis does outlines too, and has a lot bout creating one. (Science Fiction, though lousy covers out of her control)

JK Rowling Harry Potter was definitely done by outline. JK Rowling actually pulled out the outline for camera and said she'd picked out her ending ahead of time.

George RR Martin (I'm not 100% sure since I haven't read anything in terms about how do you write from him) is also in this camp. Some may chase him for blogging about doing his kitchen cabinets and fishing which there is a good answer to... but I think the reason he's slow is because he does a ton of rehashing and carefully laying things in his outline. (I get that impression) He's kinda meticulous with his writing in general. Also, I think a certain amount of research before, during and after. He's most likely a one at a time sort of person. (Which his friend, Neil Gaiman is not)

I've heard that the majority of Mysteries, especially who-dunits are done with outlines. Occasionally, though there are the freak writers who do it on the fly, but they manage to do it while writing backwards (Start at the end and write towards the beginning). Or writing out of order.

Also the majority of Historical, though some manage to do it by looking up facts from the time and then weaving interesting bits together, but this is near to impossible with historical figures where you're following their life. (Get to that later.)

Mile Stones.
Holly Lisle, herself, stated something like the Milestone method in Mugging the Muse. She knows the ending, the points she has to hit in the middle, but she's not sure what all the scenes to get there contain. She writes Fantasy. Out and she outlines for collaborations (She said so)

I'm pretty sure that Mercedes Lackey also tends to use this method as well, neither outlining or going totally on the fly. (I've read almost all her author notes, sometimes skipping reading the novel.) She writes linear forwards and does multiple projects if it occurs to her.

Anne McCaffrey, I believe was similar. From the way she talked about it, her method and the way her son Todd talks about it, it seems she fits somewhere in here. (I also picked up on something like it... since there are leftover markers.) She also does linear forwards writing, and does (or tries for) targeted projects. I also read a lot of author notes.

Improvise

Mur Lafferty also improvises. She's envious of Connie Willis who outlines, who is her hero (she claims to be on Absolute Write so.... she can correct as need be.) She's trying to work towards milestoning a bit, though she finds it difficult. This is because she can't bring herself to outline 100%, but would like to try. (I've been collecting for years off of her podcast). She writes Science Fiction and Fantasy.

Dan Wells improvises and writes mainly suspense and horror. Done successfully, BTW. More popular in Germany. He finds outlining difficult because (I think if you sum it up) It's harder to create that sense of adrenaline. He spends much of his time trying to figure out everything on impulse, which means lots of editing. (He also does multiple projects, linear forwards writing and jokingly stated his brother is weird for liking outlining.) (I think you can tell which podcasts I've been listening to.)

Diana Gabaldon improvises, writes out of order and writes mystery and historical romance (of the non regency variety, I know, I know.). She talks about it a lot. She gets away with no outline by writing out of order and also doing research, then writing a scene, and then more research, which slows down her writing. She also does multiple projects at once and so on. (Which also slows down everything, but if you take all of that away, you freeze the writer)

Though no one probably cares... Stephanie Meyer is probably in this camp (maybe going towards the milestone camp). Not sure what order she writes in, since she's stated that the sparkly scene was in the middle. I haven't read much beyond simple interviews.


The people who won't cop to anything or are none of the above...
Ken Liu, who said he's trying a novel, but does mostly short stories admits to doing none of the above. He gets a story idea and then turns it over and over and over again until he's ready to write, but never writes down an outline. (Interview). This strictly speaking isn't an outline it would be kinda hashing the story before writing. This also means it takes sometimes weeks or months for him to think the story is mature enough to write.

NK Jemisin doesn't really cop to anything, and hedges the question (I Should be Writing). It's clear though she covers her tracks very well by editing the story until it works. The majority of how she works is in the editing process and multiple drafting. How she gets the initial drafts, never in an interview or on her website does she really say anything concrete. =P (I've been watching). <-- which goes to show, if you edit enough you can cover your tracks, but the majority of authors don't do this.) I also haven't sen her talk about amount of projects or which order she write in.

There are markers for all three methods, so if you don't edit well, most of the time I can guess and then I'll be shouting at you that I know which one it is. Most of the time I'm right. (Because I've been making a game of it since I was little.)

=P I could say what they are, but I think it might be a little OT and it might also ruin your reading forever. ('cause if you figure out what method they are using, you can also figure out the next event. At least it did for me... TT Cut much of my reading down as I got bored and figured it out. But the only reason I was spending time figuring it out was to become a better writer. Foot shot, I know.)

Axordil
07-14-2013, 07:26 PM
It would be interesting to chart out overall approach (from totally on the fly to four-level outline), discrete drafts vs. ongoing revision, number of average revisions, and time required.

Maybe consistency of application too. The more I think about it, while I want to say my default mode is milestone--though I prefer to think of it as surveying :) -- I've worked at both extremes too, as the project called for it. So perhaps I don't have a default mode. :P

I do know the UF mystery I more or less pantsed felt as if it were opening up until I reached the end of the rising action, and then it started to feel increasingly constrained as to what could happen next. As Rachel's post suggests, genre and form may have much to do with this. Where there is a plot structure already in place to refer to, whether one chooses to employ it or subvert it, intuition may well allow many to skip steps when setting things up.

Formula romance and mystery (and Western, perhaps?) would be the extreme cases there--and the authors who work there can work very, very quickly indeed.

Little Anonymous Me
07-14-2013, 07:35 PM
They are doing this because it creates for stronger characters, impulses and it's harder for a reader to track.


If this is meant in a general sense, I will have to disagree with you. It should be utterly impossible to look at a finished product and tell what the author did based on plot-predictability or weak characters. If you have either, or both, you didn't write a good book. It has nothing to do with whether you live by an outline or fly by the seat of your pants and everything to do with ability.

LOTLOF
07-14-2013, 08:01 PM
Q: How do you eat an elephant?

A: One bite at a time.

Honestly, I find your question a bit odd. If someone has a successful method for writing a story why would you assume the method would need to change at 100,000 words or more? That is a bit like watching someone knit a scarf and then a sweater, but assuming there is no way they could knit something as big as a blanket.

The Great Wall of China was built entirely by unskilled laborers laying one stone atop another. Writing a novel is no different. It's just one sentence, one paragraph, one chapter after another until it's done.

I have a self published novel that is just over 112k words. I never actually wrote an outline or plot structure. I knew where I wanted the story to begin and end and I had a few specific scenes in mind. All the rest was just sitting down at my laptop letting the characters lead the way.

If you have your own way of writing you are not suddenly going to change it just because you're doing something with more volume.

swvaughn
07-14-2013, 08:17 PM
"Pantsing" has always been the instinctual way I write. A few years ago, it was impressed upon me by several people (including some professionals) that with an outline, I could write faster, have tighter plots, and generally be smoother and more organized.

I tried SO HARD to outline. I did basic outlines, tried the snowflake method, spent a few days thinking hard and jotting down notes that told me exactly who, what, and why the story needed for just about every scene. Writing that book should've been a cakewalk. It was ready to go -- all I had to do was generate the sentences and paragraphs that would put flesh and bones on my carefully constructed outline skeleton.

I could not do it. I loved the concept for that book and it would've made a great story, but I don't think it will ever get written. Outlining is not the tool for me.

So I went back to the writing approach I've always used. I know about how things start, and about how they end. And I just write the middle bits that get me from point A to point B.

The cool thing is, I rediscovered why pantsing works for me. I have a tendency to let things build in the back of my mind while I'm doing other stuff... in a way, I'm always thinking about my current story. So when I start writing, my subconscious has already figured out what happens next, and why. I've solved the "what now?" question without directly thinking about it.

That's just the way my brain works, I guess. Indirectly. Which explains a lot about me as a person, I think. :D

aruna
07-14-2013, 08:20 PM
My first novel was over 190000 words. I didn't know a single thing about it before I sat down to write it. It just came as I wrote. I was eager to know how it all tied up and especially, how it would end, and that's what kept me excited about writing!

I had to write a synopses for my next two books for my publisher. Maybe that's why I didn't like writing those books so much, and why they didn't do as well.

I have this unshakeable belief that the novels I need to write are already there, whole and intact, inside of me. That I only have to tap into them, and they will surface, one word at a time. That, for me, is storywriting.

shadowwalker
07-14-2013, 08:41 PM
The only story I ever started and never finished was the one I outlined thoroughly (it's been languishing 'in the drawer' for over two years now, after taking 3x longer to write than any other). I knew exactly what had to happen and when, usually how.

BORING.

To write, anyway. I can't know what's coming - I have to figure it out when it happens. I keep thinking I can go back to the outline, destroy 90% of the remainder and finish the story - hopefully, one day. But that's me.

kkbe
07-14-2013, 09:17 PM
I didn't know how lucky I was, first four novels: I knew the story, start to finish, before I wrote a word. Not saying the original stories survived intact because they didn't--lots of revising took place during and after. But that framework was in place, something to guide me. And I knew how they all ended.

I am pantsing this one big time and it has been ridiculously ridiculous. I am literally writing in fits and starts, stuttering, balking, dragging my feet or my ass, ripping my hair out, begging, weeping. You know what the craziest part is? I think the little bastard's pretty good so far, dammit. If only I knew how the damn thing ended. . .
:p

Jamesaritchie
07-14-2013, 09:34 PM
Ask Stephen King how he does it. Ask Dean Koontz how he does it. Ask any one of a hundred bestselling writers who write very long novels how they do it. 100,000 words is not a very long novel. It's average, and really pretty short.

Rachel Udin
07-14-2013, 10:25 PM
If this is meant in a general sense, I will have to disagree with you. It should be utterly impossible to look at a finished product and tell what the author did based on plot-predictability or weak characters. If you have either, or both, you didn't write a good book. It has nothing to do with whether you live by an outline or fly by the seat of your pants and everything to do with ability.
On the subject of knowing what the person's style of writing from the product, that's a whole other thing and I'm definitely not going on it. Off topic...

But in general, for the chain of events to work out on the fly, you do need a stronger character to carry it. Doesn't mean that character is well thought out, (that's a whole other game). It means that the author needs the character to lead the chain of events and make decisions overall which is usually how improvisation works. It's a moment by moment game. (These writers also tend to have more statements overall, by survey, that the character is going wild, which always makes the outliners, like Patrick Rothfuss feel uncomfortable, his thoughts overall. From an interview. He advocates reining them in by backing up pages, which would make improvisers scream in agony <--jk, clearly.)

Brandon Sanderson said himself, that the problem with novice outliners is that they don't properly fork their events and use too much of the first event that occurs to them. This is a bit less of a problem with improvisers from reports where the problem is getting solid ending. =P I'm taking it from the authors and author notes and their own complaints about writing. Instinct is a bit harder to predict especially when you go by gut feeling. (I can go into the writer theory of why this is as state by others, but that may be out of the scope of this topic.)

Besides, it's not bad writing that leaves the markers, it's bad EDITING. =P I'm making that distinction. I usually can tell better on an unedited than an edited manuscript as well which method was used. However, if you edit and draft it till it's smooth, I usually can't tell anymore. (Because the initial dumps are taken out). ^^;; No one believes me on the I can tell part... but I have a pretty good guess rate and have straight up told people I'm guessing you're this type, and this is how you can fix it. And I'm usually right.

Anyway, I'm going by self-reports, loose surveying and reading author notes. =P Cross referencing and taking their word for it. I cited my references too (The authors I listed)... You got yours?

Linda Adams
07-14-2013, 10:25 PM
I think one should at least *try* other methods before saying this is the only way. Going against your nature often teaches you things you can borrow from the other camps.

I know the methods don't work because I have tried them.

I ran into problems on my novel and I was desperate enough to try outlines to fix them. I went from method to method, thinking that maybe if I hit the right one, it would work. Instead, all my attempts survived about three chapters, and then self-destructed.

I also tried many, many writing classes, hoping to borrow bits and pieces since there isn't much available for pantsers. Nope. Most of the classes assume you're outlining, and the techniques factor that in. As a result, I could not use any bits and pieces at all. The only classes I've had luck with are the ones by other pantsers. I feel like I'm in an environment suited to me, not like the oddball student in the corner everyone tries to ignore.

GingerGunlock
07-14-2013, 10:44 PM
I didn't know how lucky I was, first four novels: I knew the story, start to finish, before I wrote a word. Not saying the original stories survived intact because they didn't--lots of revising took place during and after. But that framework was in place, something to guide me. And I knew how they all ended.

I am pantsing this one big time and it has been ridiculously ridiculous. I am literally writing in fits and starts, stuttering, balking, dragging my feet or my ass, ripping my hair out, begging, weeping. You know what the craziest part is? I think the little bastard's pretty good so far, dammit. If only I knew how the damn thing ended. . .
:p

Bold mine.

I think that's one think I like most about writing in general, but I guess pantsing specifically (since I suppose a pantser is truly what I am, to the bone): that moment of clarity, when you realize which puzzle pieces go where, and you see the whole that is greater than the sum of its parts.

Little Anonymous Me
07-14-2013, 10:49 PM
Anyway, I'm going by self-reports, loose surveying and reading author notes. =P Cross referencing and taking their word for it. I cited my references too (The authors I listed)... You got yours?


I didn't realize I needed references to back up an opinion.


As you yourself stated that you cannot tell which method the author used once the finished product has been edited and is finding its way into consumer hands, I don't see much difference between what I said and what you did. Bad writing and bad editing shine through regardless of whether or not a micromanaging outline or going blind fueled the project. Good writing and good editing make it impossible to tell.

But I do not believe that planning leads to weaker characters in the first draft, any more than I believe not planning means your plot is an illogical mess. For some people, that is undoubtedly true. But I balk at it as a generalization.

Mr Flibble
07-14-2013, 11:01 PM
I'm not saying that writing the genres that usually take outlining can't be done in other ways, but I think it's much harder to say, make a historical novel if you don't have an outline.

Hmm I should probably never do that again then. ;) In fact my two historicals were two of the easiest to write.

You're making a few sweeping generalisations here, and they don't hold true for many writers I know (or am :P)


If this is meant in a general sense, I will have to disagree with you. It should be utterly impossible to look at a finished product and tell what the author did based on plot-predictability or weak characters

Yup 100%. If someone has a weak character it's a factor of their writing, not their method. It's just as easy to have a predictable plot whether outlining or not outlining. The key factor is in discarding the obvious, not when you do it.



But in general, for the chain of events to work out on the fly, you do need a stronger character to carry it.

A story needs a strong character to fly. Most of them would fail without a strong -- or at least vivid -- character to carry them(except perhaps high concept stories, and even then...). That's going to be the same if you outline or don't.


Sweeping generalisations generally (c wut I did thar?) break down under scrutiny. And I think yours are too sweeping to avoid it.


Also, yeah, tried outlining. More than once, several different ways. Each time I got 10k into the story and it no longer bore any resemblance to the outline (in one instance it wasn't even the same genre) so there didn't seem a lot of point spending any time on them after that.

TL;DR: Do what works for you, as long as it works. Neither is 'better', only better for a particular writer and/or book.

milkweed
07-14-2013, 11:08 PM
While I'm a plotter, my co-author is a pantser. She says she sits down to type and it's like a character is standing behind her, dictating what happens. I don't really understand it either, and I've asked several well-known authors who write this way. Apparently it's a common event that pantsers are typing what the characters tell them. :Shrug:

This is a pretty good description of me, no matter how hard I try to stick to an outline it doesn't work. Well it doesn't work if I want characters and scenes to be authentic and believable.

craziichas
07-14-2013, 11:17 PM
I outline the chapters as I write them but that's as far as I go with plotting. I've tried but it usually never goes the way the outline is set for so I don't bother with anything more complex.

shadowwalker
07-15-2013, 12:06 AM
What's also interesting - and maybe this is a derail, so discard for other reaches if so - is that pantsers can also be "write complete draft and then revise" or "revise as we write". I've seen heated discussions where people claim that first draft is an outline in reality - and the reason for saying it was a\n "SEEEE? You do too outline!". Which gets kinda silly, IMO.

As others have said/implied, it doesn't matter how you get there - if the end product is a well-written book, who cares?

Buffysquirrel
07-15-2013, 12:35 AM
It was pretty obvious from The Hobbit that Tolkien was a pantser--and one who didn't bother to edit/revise. Now I will be surrounded by a mob of Hobbit-lovers with torches, no doubt.

kuwisdelu
07-15-2013, 12:52 AM
I think part of what makes outlining not work for me is that it tends to elevate the importance of plot, since outlines tend to be about events. If I try to follow an outline, I end up thinking too much about the plot and less about the character development, and it's the latter that matters to me. It's too easy to let the plot dictate what happens rather than the characters (at least that is the danger for me; others may feel differently).

Character arcs are what I hold in my head, not plot. The plot itself is merely a concept for me when I start a story. The events that happen aren't actually as important to my stories as where the characters go inside their hearts. The plot can change, but the characters are what matter to me, and their arcs are the true story, which is difficult to outline without writing an essay (literally, the critical kind, I mean).

So being character-driven rather than plot-driven is probably one major reason I write the way I do.


What's also interesting - and maybe this is a derail, so discard for other reaches if so - is that pantsers can also be "write complete draft and then revise" or "revise as we write". I've seen heated discussions where people claim that first draft is an outline in reality - and the reason for saying it was a\n "SEEEE? You do too outline!". Which gets kinda silly, IMO.

I have to wonder if the outliners who call our first drafts "outlines" spend hours and hours tweaking word choices and sentence structures and rhythms in the prose of their outlines, too.

(That said, I would agree that any draft or description written without regard for language is just a glorified outline, but that's okay if that's how you work. I say that mostly because of how I think of plot vs. story. To me, the consideration of language is part of what makes something a story and not just a plot, at least with prose fiction.)

aruna
07-15-2013, 12:53 AM
It can be ridiculously easy especially if you only have one storyline (rather than an 'A story' a 'B story' a 'C story' etc. that you have to weave,) you already know the ending and you spend the whole book in the POV of one character.



My first book was like this: three completely unrelated story threads that eventually merged into one. I wrote it in one single gush, without editing the first draft at all. Only in later drafts did I restructure it, give it the final form. There were two completely different writing modes: creation and organisation, and I needed two different writing caps for each mode.

Buffysquirrel
07-15-2013, 01:32 AM
I have to wonder if the outliners who call our first drafts "outlines" spend hours and hours tweaking word choices and sentence structures and rhythms in the prose of their outlines, too.

To them, all I can say is...are your outlines usually 100k long?

Linda Adams
07-15-2013, 01:36 AM
I've seen heated discussions where people claim that first draft is an outline in reality - and the reason for saying it was a\n "SEEEE? You do too outline!". Which gets kinda silly, IMO.

Someone said that to me, and I said, "So you write an outline, and then the first draft, and you have a first draft. I write a first draft, and all I have is an outline?"

Right. :Wha:

LOTLOF
07-15-2013, 01:37 AM
Why? It's a huge compliment.

kuwisdelu
07-15-2013, 01:42 AM
To them, all I can say is...are your outlines usually 100k long?

I do know some writers who write extremely long detailed outlines that are similar in length of the final novel, which is why I think of it being more about attention to language and dramatic mood than about length and detail.

RichardGarfinkle
07-15-2013, 02:40 AM
I've pantsed every book I've written. It works fine for me, and it's fun being surprised by characters and events I had no idea about when I began. Generally, I find that everything's in place by the end of the second draft, then I can go back and make sure everything fits together.

ebbrown
07-15-2013, 02:49 AM
I'm usually a strict outliner, as in I outline a summary of every chapter. I say usually.

However, over the last few weeks I have been distracted by a bunch of scenes that I knew needed to be in the last book in my series, so I just started writing them. I plug them out, no particular order. It's made me feel kinda, well, naked...but in a good way. Mulling it over, I think it might be some of the best stuff I've ever written.

So I won't be one to say "do it" or "don't do it," since whatever works seems just fine to me.

Good luck whatever path you choose. It might change someday. :)

Mr Flibble
07-15-2013, 03:15 AM
I do know some writers who write extremely long detailed outlines that are similar in length of the final novel, which is why I think of it being more about attention to language and dramatic mood than about length and detail.

I'm thinkin i I'm going to write a 100k, I'd rather it was 100k on the book, not on how I;m going to write this book.

Lots of people say pantsing must take extra time in revision (it doesn't take that long for me tbh). But some people take ages on the outline...

shadowwalker
07-15-2013, 03:30 AM
I'm thinkin i I'm going to write a 100k, I'd rather it was 100k on the book, not on how I;m going to write this book.

This! (And for me, that goes for any length.)

Manuel Royal
07-15-2013, 03:32 AM
I'm not going to use the word "pants" as a verb -- at least, not in a non-sexual context.

I've never been a good outliner. Even when writing scripts, I've only used the most basic list of events. But now I'm attempting a novel for the first time in many years, and I'm considering it. I've got most of the characters, and the basic dramatic arcs, and most of the physical amd thematic elements, but got stuck on getting from A to B to ... whatever. (I'm not an alphabet expert.)

But over the past couple of days, while doing other things (eating at a Steak 'n Shake; going for a walk) I came up with the setting and catalyzing event for the opening scene; that's my entry point to the narrative. A framework from there has been forming in my head. So I'm hoping I won't have to do a full outline.

But that wouldn't have happened (for me, anyway) without the step of mentally identifying with my protagonist, keeping in mind what she cares about, what she needs but hasn't been getting, what she wants, and what would make her do what she doesn't want.

There's no reason you can't have both a strong plot and strong characters, but there are great, memorable books and movies that are really only strong in one of those. For me, it's characters; if I'm lucky the plot will be competent, with a clever twist or two.

(Definitely need a lot of notes, though; the setting is 1928 Pittsburgh, and the research seems potentially endless. Might have to use those footnote and comment features in Word.)

Every writer finds (one hopes) the approach that works for him or her. Never be afraid to experiment.

DeleyanLee
07-15-2013, 03:35 AM
When I wrote outlines, I could pull one together in about 3 hours. It always hit the major points, though lots of little points would change with every writing session. Then it would take me about 3-6 months to write the first draft. Always had FAR more editing on those books than I do on any book I've "pantsed".

But everyone's mileage will be different, so that's to be expected. I just get more good, usable words this way than I did the other. *shrug*

Layla Nahar
07-15-2013, 05:05 AM
... If I try to follow an outline, I end up thinking too much about the plot and less about the character development, and it's the latter that matters to me. It's too easy to let the plot dictate what happens rather than the characters ....

Character arcs are what I hold in my head, not plot. The plot itself is merely a concept for me when I start a story. The events that happen aren't actually as important to my stories as where the characters go inside their hearts. The plot can change, but the characters are what matter to me, and their arcs are the true story, which is difficult to outline without writing an essay (literally, the critical kind, I mean).



I'm intrigued about what you've said. I'm wondering how you see the difference between character development and plot. (Or between character arc and plot? Do you see character arc as the same thing as character development?) I'm asking these questions because I'm interested in the insights that your point of view might offer.

cryaegm
07-15-2013, 05:28 AM
I think I half-ass my outlines. I write a couple of sentences for what happens (e.g. This character does X. This character does Y. This happens here and here. This character sees other character do Z.), and I organize it all using a web diagram. Sometimes I don't even finish the outline before I start writing since I don't know what will happen in said story yet. I will have the first few chapters outline, have the middle chapters outlined, then I'll have the end outlined. The chapters not outlined end up blank until I get to them in the story. Then I'll go back and connect all the dots, or most of them for the first draft.

Some things might be missing when the first draft is done. That's okay for me because I'll have the story help me out on what might be missing and I can add it in when I revise. Sometimes a scene or two gets added to the outlined chapters, but the chapter outlines are usually just bare bones to begin with. The details and everything else are added as I write the story.

I choose to do a web diagram because I found it works best for me. I'm not wordy then and I can still add to the chapters while still sticking to the original outline.

Axordil
07-15-2013, 05:30 AM
I need to find an old copy of Microsoft Project to see how a Gantt chart works as a structuring tool.

Linda Adams
07-15-2013, 06:20 AM
I'm intrigued about what you've said. I'm wondering how you see the difference between character development and plot. (Or between character arc and plot? Do you see character arc as the same thing as character development?) I'm asking these questions because I'm interested in the insights that your point of view might offer.

I know for me character development is a different animal from a character arc. Characterization is one of my strengths, and yet, I have enormous difficulty getting character arcs into the book. That may be because I'm also good at plot, but I tend to get such a laser-like focus on plot that it's easy for me to leave things out.

Nivarion
07-15-2013, 06:54 AM
I generally write by the seat of my pants. I have a general idea of where the story is going, and what sort of scenes the characters have told me about, but they change and grow as I write and change the scene frequently.

Last night when I was writing I got to a scene I have been visualizing for months, and it ended up playing completely different than I had seen it in my head. Because the characters emotions had changed in the conversation before and the MC was looking out for this other character.

Seat of the pants writing is epic fun though. The story is unfolding for you like you're an original reader. Sometimes I get to where I must write the next page like I must read the next page.

Calle Jay
07-15-2013, 09:02 AM
I can't do outlines at all. They kill my writing mojo too damned quick!

And...I don't write linearly at all, either. I might have the beginning chapters, a few middle chapters, an ending, etc. all jumbled up in the first draft. When it comes editing time, I'll drag and drop into place until the story just kind of *snaps* into where it needs to go.

And I sincerely believe it happens when I...

Know my characters. Inside and out.

In my writing every action or event is caused by something that happened earlier. And then my characters have to react to those somethings. Will my anal, overly organized character do this? Will my flighty social character act this way in this situation? Is it believable? Is it realistic for the world I've set up? No? Then it doesn't go in the book. Would they say this or that? Would they panic? Lash out? Turn all melty-gooey-lovey-dovey? Yes? No?

Then during the editing phase (I usually do three drafts per book) I'll read it in order, do any rearranging needed, then write gap-filler scenes/revise scenes to make them fit the later events.

And I always, always, always ask "Is this a logical behavior for my character/situation?"

And that's about it.

kuwisdelu
07-15-2013, 09:11 AM
I'm intrigued about what you've said. I'm wondering how you see the difference between character development and plot. (Or between character arc and plot? Do you see character arc as the same thing as character development?) I'm asking these questions because I'm interested in the insights that your point of view might offer.

Some people might use the the terms differently, but most people seem to use character development and characterization more or less interchangeably to describe the process of building and painting a picture of a character vividly in the reader's mind.

By character arc I mean the trajectory of the character through life and through the story, their growth and lapses, and how they change, for better or worse.

I see plot as the external events. The "what happens". But experience is more than just the sum of events that happen to you. It's the experiences that I'm more interested in capturing than a particular set of events. How do you feel when going through something like losing a loved one or a moving on after a failed relationship?

That's my starting point. The seed of my plot is often a concept, a central image or metaphor, that becomes the building block of whatever events transpire.

That's why I often end up writing magic realism. If a break-up feels like the end of the world, and a break-up is the kind of story I want to tell, then the plot that arises from the character arc I want to convey might include, well, the end of the world. Because that's what the character feels.

>compass<
07-15-2013, 02:33 PM
I am a pants flyer. I have this uncanny way of inserting some plot point/object/person/whatever somewhere in the story that becomes very useful to advancing the plot later without ever planning it. It's like pulling on an old pair of jeans and finding $20 in one of the pockets.

Oldbrasscat
07-15-2013, 02:47 PM
It's good to see other people out there who write like I do. I can usually write fairly linearly for the first three chapters, then the ending gets written, then a few in the middle. And, compass? I do the same thing--insert things for no reason I can think of, only to have them become incredibly important later on.

I often say my subconscious is a better writer than I am.

ap123
07-15-2013, 03:11 PM
I'm a linear writer, but I think it's because I don't do much in the way of outlining. I think about a new story forever before I begin writing, make some character notes, external/internal motivation, setting, and then start writing. Usually, once I've got the first few chapters, I'll write a few sentences worth of outline a couple of chapters in advance--POV character, where, major event, but this can change while I'm writing those chapters.

Once a chapter is completed, I do keep notes on each so as not to get confused as I go further along (names, ages, brief what happened).

I have a composition book for each manuscript, all notes are in the book.

Bufty
07-15-2013, 03:18 PM
Non-outliners? John le Carre.

Debates over outlining or not outlining never seem to get anywhere except back to where they start.

Just because we prefer to use one method and can't or don't want to use the other doesn't mean we can't appreciate that the other method works equally well for others.

I'm not in the least surprised that some folk outline even though I prefer not to and the reverse should be the case, too.

onesecondglance
07-15-2013, 04:00 PM
What I can't figure out is how outliners can outline a scene without having written what happens before it? Even if you have an idea of what should happen in a scene, how do you know what really happens until you write it?

I usually have an idea of where I want to go, sometimes more concrete than others. But I can't really know what happens in the next scene until I've experienced the scenes before it, so outlining is kind of fruitless for me (and tends to kill the fun).

It's kind of like how I have to go back and read a whole page to figure out if a word choice in the very last line is any good. (Everyone does that, right?)

It's an interesting question, and one I see coming up a lot in these sort of threads. I suppose it really depends what kind of outline you do. Mine tend to be like a menu - I work out what courses there are going to be and in what order they will happen.

I then have to write the actual thing - which, in this tortuous analogy, is cooking each course of the menu - and, in doing that, I can tell if the rest of the outline is going to work. It may not, in which case I adapt it as I go. Where I go "off-plan", I finish the scene I'm on and when update the outline so I know where I'm heading for the rest of it.

The major benefit of an outline for me is to save myself from getting caught in decision-making. I'm terrible for agonising over plot points, and without having worked out the big stuff up front I can get bogged down and never actually finish the story. I have enough songs I've shelved because I can't work out what goes next - I don't want to add novels to that list...


Debates over outlining or not outlining never seem to get anywhere except back to where they start.

Just because we prefer to use one method and can't or don't want to use the other doesn't mean we can't appreciate that the other method works equally well for others.

I'm not in the least surprised that some folk outline even though I prefer not to and the reverse should be the case, too.

Yup.