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Seat-of-the-pants or outline writing?

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Ronald T., Oct 21, 2015.

  1. Mythopoet

    Mythopoet Auror

    Honestly, I do whatever seems like a good idea at the time.
  2. Chessie

    Chessie Guest

    When I pantsed, meeting my word count/deadline was ridiculously impossible. Edits weren't effective. Sometimes I didn't finish my projects. I decided somewhere along the way that I needed to get my shit together, and researched different outlining methods. After trying out several, I've come up with a system that works for me at the moment. It'll change though, since every story requires something different in the planning stage.

    I can't write unless I have these things in order: theme, story goal, protagonist and his/her moral flaw, the antagonist, secondary characters, setting, plot and pinch points all the way to the end. That's a loose outline for me. I'll go deeper depending on the size of the work, so I'll start writing with shorter pieces and do story beats before I write that day's word count. For the longer ones, I hash out the details for the majority of scenes (leave some flexibility in there) and then I write. The point for me is that I have a high word count per day (5k) and I can't do that unless I have planned out what is being written that day. Pantsing doesn't cut it and my brain no longer works that way. I'm a more efficient and effective writer having an outline.
  3. Ronald T.

    Ronald T. Troubadour

    I thank you all, so much. I am overwhelmed by all the fantastic input. This is exactly what I was hoping for.

    But I am unable to respond right now, as I would like, because I'm am in the middle of replacing ball-joints, wheel-bearings, and tie-rod ends on my pickup. So, at the moment, I have my hands full.

    As soon as I'm finished with this backbreaking chore, I'll do my best to respond to all your generous thoughts.

    As always, my best to you all.
    Sheilawisz likes this.
  4. Addison

    Addison Auror

    I start all stories as a pantser. I tried doing outline first once, didn't work. Maybe it was the story itself but I'm a pantser at heart. The weird thing is that once I've written draft #X then I get out the index cards, blank papers and make an outline. I cut my story into blocks and segments so I can see the entire story at once to find where things get loose, complicated etc. So outline is the clean up tool, when it's done I write my discoveries on one checklist and again go through the story in a sort of targeted pantsing.
  5. DeathtoTrite

    DeathtoTrite Troubadour

    I prefer planning, for a lot of the reasons mentioned. Writing without a plan for me leads to exploding word count and often meandering scenes. Keeping good pace, brevity, and overall story plot is difficult for me without a good notion going in.

    But I very much value a book that distills a lot into few words.
  6. Incanus

    Incanus Auror

    It's fascinating how different we all are. I find that without something resembling a plan, my word count falls precipitously. I guess since words are so hard for me to get out, meandering isn't something I have a problem with.
  7. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    I can't lay claim to being one or another until I've written and published (with peer review) at least three novels. Until then, I figure I'm just guessing. And a little bit of whinging, as I do one thing but feel others are judging me, telling me I ought to be doing the other if I'm going to be a "real" writer.

    I'm not a visual person, I'm an olfactory person. That's why my writing stinks.

    That's my standard line in response to all "I'm a ______ person" statements. Why limit yourself? Why can't I be an all-five-senses person? Why do I have to be left-brained or right-brained? Can't I be whole brained? Or just brained?

    That may sound OT, but I truly think it's relevant. We are too eager to cast ourselves into pigeonholes, and we ain't pigeons. I say try everything, keep what works, and let the critics assign the categories after I'm famous.
    MineOwnKing likes this.
  8. Chessie

    Chessie Guest

    One thing about plotting though is that it's definitely a learned skill. Writing a loose outline with a few paragraphs is one thing, but deliberately placing scenes where X happens then Y leading to Z keeping theme and plot points moving is a whole other monster. For those who want to learn how to plot efficiently, consider reading several plot books--like 5 to start with. Every author I've read has a different method which has led me to create a system that works a bit better, works a bit even more better, etc. It takes time to figure out what method works for your person, and you start to see the story developing like magic on the page before you even write. It's the single tool that's made a world of difference in my writing.
    BWFoster78 likes this.
  9. Heliotrope

    Heliotrope Staff Article Team

    Chesterama, I totally agree. I was reading this post a few days ago:

    Writing The Perfect Scene: Advanced Fiction Writing Tips

    At the bottom of the post he describes MRU's, which means 'motivation-reaction units'. His theory was that really good books that are page turners have a big ratio of MRU's. So last night when I was working on my short I was like "Ok, what the hell…" and as an exercise I decided to write a few paragraphs using only the MRU pattern: Motivation, emotional reaction, physical reaction, speech, as he describes it in the post.

    It was really hard and felt really weird and my draft was terrible. However, I could really see how it forced me to make more things happen in the scene. It forced me to include some sort of action where I wouldn't have. I really saw how it could make a scene much more interesting and fast paced. So while I'm not sure that it is a pattern I would use for every sentence, the exercise was very effective in helping me write a much more action based/fast paced scene.
    Ronald T. likes this.
  10. ThinkerX

    ThinkerX Myth Weaver

    That was me last week...with the work rig. Except add rear brake shoes, blown seals and a bad driveline. Ages ago, I might have attempted that myself. But since it was tax deductible, I let the shop across the street wrestle with it whilst I wrestled with editing.
  11. spectre

    spectre Sage

    I have some talent in writing but I'm not an english major. What is the difference? I don't want to assume, Google's being rude. Is it writing off the top of the gead versus drawing up an outline?

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  12. psychotick

    psychotick Auror


    I'm probably the most pure pantster there is. I simply start with a scen, a person, a world or something and go from there.I not only have no idea where a books going to end, I often don't know where it's going to go next. Many times I end up surprising myself. Usually I just write, put myself in the shoes of the MC and then see what happens.

    It's a good system in a way. It keeps me motivated and fresh, and my word counts per day can be really good. It's also I think truer to my characters. I don't have to write an MC winning a battle etc to match a plot outline. It may be more real for himto lose, or run away or do something dishonourable. But at the same time I have well over a hundred novels on my computers now which are in various stages of completion, because I reached a certain point and then didn't know where the story goes next. On the other hand it's not all terrible with twenty three books pubbed.

    Cheers, Greg.
    kennyc and spectre like this.
  13. spectre

    spectre Sage

    That's amazing Psyk

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  14. Gospodin

    Gospodin Minstrel

    I'm somewhere in the middle. Heresy, I know. :( I know where my story will end and I know some landmark points to get there. The beginning usually presents itself as I start to write, and the initial beginning that I write is never, ever the actual beginning. There's always warm-up that tends to either get lopped or trimmed from the front and folded in later.
    kennyc likes this.
  15. That is correct. But, as with a lot of things, I don't really consider it an either or, but more of a spectrum. These two are just the extreme points on the line.
  16. spectre

    spectre Sage


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  17. evolution_rex

    evolution_rex Inkling

    Is it the outlining that causes me to lose interest? Then that might be the problem I always have. I've never been able to finish a large story yet, the longest thing I've ever wrote was just a Jurassic Park fan script that was 60 pages, and it's usually because I begin to doubt and lose interest in the the story during the outline stage. If its the outline that's causing me to have this trouble, then perhaps I should change the way I right.

    I'm like you as well, envisioning stories visually and like a scene in a movie. I became a movie person before I was big reader, and I write mainly because I can't paint or draw very well and I don't have the resources to direct a high budget movie with tons of visual effects. Writing is the best format I have to describe these 'scenes' I have in my head. But to me, outlining became even more important when I realized that. That's when I started going scene by scene of what was going on, making sure there were no inconsistencies and that each part was good as a story before I could physically start writing it.

    How can I write a story without any outlines when I'm not sure where the story is going to go? I don't want a messy narrative, I want foreshadowing and I want the plot to unravel with clever bits here and there. How do I do that?
  18. For me, it's not about not knowing where the story will go. It's about not knowing how the story will get there. So, I always know the end and I know my characters. Once I get the beginning I progress that way. I sometimes work backwards and I sometimes work forwards but I am always thinking about the story.
    kennyc likes this.
  19. kennyc

    kennyc Inkling

    The Stephen King method. You're in good company!
    Ronald T. likes this.
  20. kennyc

    kennyc Inkling

    It could be. Many writers don't want to talk about what they are writing for fear they will 'tell the story' and get it out of their system. Outlining could be the same. By doing the outline you might unconsciously feel you've completed the story and no need to write it. ...
    Ronald T. likes this.

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