1. Welcome to the Fantasy Writing Forums. Register Now to join us.

Seat-of-the-pants or outline writing?

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

  1. When I read the original post, I was trying to figure out what kind of writer I was. This method is probably the best description.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 11, 2017
    Ronald T. likes this.
  2. kennyc

    kennyc Inkling

    527
    183
    43
    Yeah, so was Henry David Thoreau.
    :)
     
  3. Ronald T.

    Ronald T. Troubadour

    172
    86
    28
    Thanks to you all. So many great posts.

    I think I will be able to respond to most of you on Wednesday, 10/28/15. Since last Wednesday, I've been busy repairing the broken front suspension on my truck, which broke the day before -- new rotor/wheel bearing-hubs, new tie-rod ends, and new inner and outer wheel bearings on both front wheels. And I'm much slower than I was when I was younger. I should finish the job today. Then tomorrow, I have to mow a lawn that is a week overdo.

    Please be patient. I promise, I will respond to your great posts. And thank you again.

    As always, my best to you all.

    The hermit in the woods
     
  4. kennyc

    kennyc Inkling

    527
    183
    43
    Good Luck with that!
     
    Ronald T. likes this.
  5. Incanus

    Incanus Auror

    1,024
    426
    83
    Well I certainly learned something from this thread:

    It looks as though I'm the 'hybrid' type.
     
  6. Ronald T.

    Ronald T. Troubadour

    172
    86
    28
    Finally, my response and my thanks to all your great posts.

    I've finished my backbreaking chores, and now I can get back to the thread I began on 10-21-15. I apologize for the delay. I have to admit that the unexpected mechanical problems with my truck's front suspension was more than a little aggravating. But I finished the work successfully, so I can move on to more enjoyable issues.

    Again, I thank you all so much. I learned an amazing amount from what each of you had to say. It seems I sometimes make faulty assumptions about an issue when I've spent years doing things in a certain way. Perhaps we all do. But I asked my original question in an attempt to learn how others go about the process of writing. I learn by watching, listening, and asking questions, as I'm sure most of us do. So, if in any way my thread-post came across as an attempt to diminish or malign any other writer's technique, I apologize. My entire purpose was to learn. And with your input, I learned more than I ever thought possible.

    Because I'm a new participant to forums such as this, and because I'm 'the hermit in the woods', I've had little chance to discuss writing with others who are committed to the art and craft of writing. So I admit to a limited degree of knowledge -- or to a certain amount of ignorance, if you prefer? -- on how others go about their individual techniques. With you kind willingness to share your particular processes, I now consider myself much more informed.

    If my way of responding to your posts is unconventional or distracting, I apologize. I have yet to learn how to copy from other posts and insert them into mine. But be patient...I will eventually learn that as well.

    HELIOTROPE -- I would like the thank you once again. Your first post was an eye-opening example of how different our various techniques can be. I was amazed and astonished by what you described. Your process is so different from mine. And yet it seems to work very well for you. And isn't that our foremost challenge? If we are to achieve anything in life, we must first find a process that works. I believe that is the key to any success.

    NIMUE -- your idea of a disconnect is correct to a certain point. Although I know that an outline isn't set in stone, I made the faulty assumption that a writer might have a tendency to force a story in a particular direction to suit the outline. Having read all these great posts, I now see I was in error. In response to the problem with a wandering story, I'm fortunately someone who is blessed -- or cursed -- with tunnel-vision. I seldom lose track of where I am in the story, or where I'm going. I have many annoying issue with my writing, but wandering off track isn't one of them. Thanks so much for your input.

    BWFOSTER78 -- From what I can gather based on your first statement, you had the same problem with 'wandering' that Nimue spoke of. If that's the case, I'm in absolute agreement with you on the idea that outlining is more efficient. And your point about the potential for losing interest with either technique is a fantastic point. I admit, I hadn't looked at it that way. Well done!
    However, I take a small issue with your statement that there is little difference between the two techniques. It they aren't markedly different, then why did you choose to change your approach? I only ask because I don't know. Thanks for your input.

    -- to be continued --
     
    Last edited: Oct 28, 2015
  7. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver

    4,369
    945
    113
    Ronald T,

    You asked this question:

    Here is an actual quote of my statement:

    I did not say that there is little difference between the two techniques. I said that the is little difference between what I produced as a pantser with my first draft and what I produce as an outline. The outline, for me, is simply that first draft done in bullet points.

    The reason I changed is efficiency. It's a lot faster to write bullet points than a full scene, and it's easier to rearrange and insert inside bullet points than it is in full scenes and chapters.
     
  8. Ronald T.

    Ronald T. Troubadour

    172
    86
    28
    -- continuing --

    NIMUE -- It appears we have a similar ability to visualize. I believe it is a talent that many writers have, and I can't imagine trying to write without it. Concerning your question about visualization being antithetical to the outlining process, my reference was to how an outliner knows what direction a MC will take if they haven't already done the work and detailed visualization necessary to make a choice. That very choice could change the eventual storyline dramatically. So my concern was with the potential of an author forcing a MC to follow a pre-set plan. Since I've never been an outliner, it could be that I'm focused on issues that aren't truly problems at all. And I think that the idea of writing too much detail is simply an issue of losing focus. I could probably write an entire book on one complex scene. But the need for precision and focus forces me to choose the most important details from my mental scenario, and to doggedly keep myself on track. And you're right...choosing the correct word, and knowing how to arrange those words in a particular order is what makes one author better than another. We can all place words on a page, but doing so with grace and beauty is what makes all the difference. Thanks again.

    HELIOTROPE -- Again, your approach to writing is so foreign to me, it absolutely boggles my mind. Clearly, it works for you. And that's all that counts in the end. But I must say, once more, I find your technique utterly fascinating. Thanks again.

    INCANUS -- Based what I've learned of you, I think you're closer to being a 'hybrid', something others have mentioned in their posts. In fact, if having a non-detailed idea in my mind for the general direction of my novel, or knowing instinctively the various character traits of my nine MC's can be described as having an outline -- even thought it isn't written down, but retained only in my head -- then, perhaps I tend toward the "hybrid" technique more than I realized. And I agree...a technique that works is far more important than any name we might give it. Thanks for the input, Incanus.

    SHEILAWISZ -- Wells said, Sheila. Your analogy to dancing is a good one. I believe it deals a lot with the pacing aspect of writing. It is much like my experience with martial arts. It is a give and take process, a knowing when to back off and when to charge forward. It seems that all things in life have a natural sense of pacing. Knowing the steps and music of the various dances of life -- including that of writing -- can make any process much easier. And you're right...a balance in writing, as in all things, is usually the best policy. Thanks for your insightful input.

    T.ALLEN.SMITH -- Like Sheilawisz, it seems you strive for a workable balance in your writing. And your Ray Bradbury quote is great. Sometimes we have to take our worries out of the equation and simply start writing. It's amazing what you can achieve when you don't let doubt stand in your way. And your E. L. Doctorow quote is fantastic. I couldn't imagine a better description of my technique than that. Thanks so much.

    -- to be continued --
     
    Last edited: Oct 28, 2015
    Incanus likes this.
  9. Ronald T.

    Ronald T. Troubadour

    172
    86
    28
    Foster78--

    My apologies. Call it a misunderstanding on my part. No offense was intended.
     
  10. evolution_rex

    evolution_rex Inkling

    530
    242
    43
    Because of this thread, I am currently use the seat-of-the-pants method on my current story. We'll see how it turns out. Already it feels easier to write and I can physically write more and longer than before, but what I'm writing feels very sub-par. I suppose it's a first draft for a reason, though. If I'm using this method, I'll need to do heavy editing before it can resemble writing that I'd share with others.
     
    Ronald T. likes this.
  11. Ronald T.

    Ronald T. Troubadour

    172
    86
    28
    I will continue my responses tomorrow, but I have neglected my daily chores too long already. And don't worry. I don't intend to go into such detail in the future. However, I will do so on this thread until I've responded to each post and have thanked each poster for their time. Considering that this was my first attempt at posting an original thread, I thought it might be a good opportunity to let you get to know me a little better, and for you to see my thoughts on writing, as I have sought to do by reading your posts. I have no wish to offend or bore anyone with my take on a particular issue. I simply wish to be a participating member of the forum. This is a way for me to experience how others do what they do, and I am enjoying it immensely.

    As always, my best to you all.

    The hermit in the woods
     
  12. Stephyn Blackwood

    Stephyn Blackwood Minstrel

    60
    12
    8
    Oh I used to be an absolute Pantser. Like honestly. I used to be horrible for just rambling in my writings and getting places with it.

    Until I realised that it was like a big turd sprinkled with little bits of glitter. A whole load of crap words stuck together with a few little bits that actually sounded quite good.

    Now however, I've taken to going with the Snowflake method for planning, and I'd say that it's working out a hell of a lot better than anything I've tried before. Managed to actually write a semi-decent short story from it. So... Maybe I should keep on this route of outlining, even though it is time consuming at the beginning. But I'm sure it saves me trouble in the long run.

    These are the basic steps of the snowflake method for anyone who is unaware: How To Write A Novel Using The Snowflake Method
     
  13. Heliotrope

    Heliotrope Staff Article Team

    2,662
    1,951
    163
    I started out with Snowflake too! I like it. It really does help narrow everything into focus.
     
    Ronald T. likes this.
  14. M P Goodwin

    M P Goodwin Scribe

    25
    7
    3
    Another interesting thread. For myself I see the entire world in a glorious technicolor but have story boards for each section of the book, say 30k words per section, and with that board as the rails I put my foot down and accelerate hard into the landscape and the characters...and it all just unfolds in front of me. It remains to be seen whether what unfolds is generally well received but so far so good.
     
  15. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    6,610
    4,609
    313
    I started out wearing pants, but now I'm retired. ....

    No, seriously. I began with the story idea and just started writing. I wrote a *lot*. Several lots, in fact. I think it was necessary because I didn't know _how_ to think my way through a novel. I think outlining may be a great method for my next book, but I don't think it would have done much for me on my first run. It's all very well to study theory and write a song, but sooner or later you just have to pick up the guitar and play.

    Where I found outlining to be useful--indispensable, in fact--is in the rewrite. Pantsing is great and exhilarating, but only on the first draft. At least for me. What I discovered, after a couple of years, is that I did indeed have several lots of writing, but it was a giant mess. Not just the poor prose--that's comparatively easy.

    The challenge was in story structure. I had different main characters. The story began in different places. It ended different ways. Some scenes had five or six versions, each with different implications for a dozen other scenes. There's no way to pants yourself through that, short of simply starting over.

    That's where outlining helped. I forced myself to outline *what I had actually written*. Getting all that heady-to-write prose into something even vaguely resembling a coherent story was a massive chore--emphasis on both the noun and the adjective. It was horribly dreary work and it's taken me forever.

    Next novel, I'm starting with an outline. I doubt it will help me with the first draft, but I'm hoping (desperately!) that it will help me in subsequent edits.

    One additional comment. This is just me, so feel free to disagree with me. It concerns the fear of "getting the story out there" and becoming bored with it.

    If I get bored with it that easily, it's not a story, and I've no business writing it. Any novel is going to take so incredibly much work, I'm going to be going over it so freakin' many times, that I had better be utterly committed to it. Not in love with it, because it's too easy to fall out of love. I'm talking commitment.

    So, go tell your story. It's not some piece of fragile china, it's a box of rocks.
     
    kennyc likes this.
  16. Mythopoet

    Mythopoet Auror

    1,952
    981
    113
    I just came across this quote by Gene Wolfe recently....

    "You never learn how to write a novel. You just learn how to write the novel that you're writing."

    I think this is how I think about it too. I don't really think of myself as a "certain" type of writer. I don't think labeling myself is useful.
     
    skip.knox likes this.
  17. Chessie

    Chessie Guest

    Ronald T. (I lived in a tent in Grass Valley for several months and loved it! Such a beautiful area), it seems that you have a system already established for your writing. It's good though that you're branching out and asking what other writers do. Never hurts to have other opinions. This is definitely a process that takes some nurturing. Continue researching and reading about it in craft books, trying out new ideas, etc. For me, it took about 10+ craft books and trying out different outlining techniques before finding something that's currently my process. It always changes. :)
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 28, 2015
  18. Ronald T.

    Ronald T. Troubadour

    172
    86
    28
    -- continuing --

    SVRTNSSE -- I can see how your process can be very helpful for an outliner, and yet, still retain an ample amount of fluidity. It seems very much like the process I use as a sculptor, but in reverse. As a writer, each layer you add gets you closer to your final goal. However, in carving stone and wood, each layer I remove brings me closer to the finished work of art. Very interesting. Thanks for the input.

    BRIAN SCOTT ALLEN -- I think your hybrid approach is a great idea for keeping track of the various aspects of your story. This seems to be a good method, allowing the best of both worlds. And after reading all these posts, I think it is quite likely what most of us do to a certain degree. Well stated. And thanks for sharing.

    KENNYC -- I think you've hit on a major issue of this discussion. Because when I say I'm a pantser, I only mean that I don't write anything down before I start writing my novels. The basic structure is there in a very rough form, but it is retained within my mind, not in any written form. I think that's what Steven King means when he says he's a pantser. At least that's what I mean. But Mister King would have to say yea or nay to that supposition. It's merely a guess on my part. Thanks for the great input.

    THINKERX -- It sounds like you've found what works best for you, and it appears you've settled on a sound process. I believe it could work well for many writers: pantser for shorter work, and outliner for longer projects. Novels can become very detailed and complex. And keeping track of it all is an absolute necessity if the story has any chance of pleasing a reader. Thanks for your input.

    PENPILOT -- It appears the 'hybrid' process is more common than I expected. Quite interesting. And your point about battle plans is right on the mark. From reading all these posts, I have to agree that both pantsers and outliners probably end up doing the same amount of work. However, on your point about not allowing the MC to take the path of least resistance, I must disagree. As you said, it's instinctive, therefore, a person is likely to take the easier path. When they have a choice, why would
    they chose a path that would clearly be more dangerous? It seems to me, such a decision makes the character seem foolish. The wise MC would take what he assumes is the easiest path to achieving his goal. It is up to the author to then prove his sensible choice was not so sensible after all. It's incumbent on the writer to make his characters appear smart, or who wants to read the story? All we have to do as writers, is to make certain the easy or safest choice is anything but that. Just one man's opinion. But in the end, what do I know? I'm just a hermit in the woods. Thanks for your input.

    --to be continued--
     
    Last edited: Oct 29, 2015
  19. Ronald T.

    Ronald T. Troubadour

    172
    86
    28
    --continuing--

    MISKATONIC -- It sounds like your process is much like that of ThinkerX. And I now believe it is much more common than I realized. The important thing is that it works. Any system that works is a great system. As long as it allows a writer to complete a project, and do so in a way that entertains the reader, who could ask for more? Thanks for the post, Misky.

    ACAPES -- Your post only reinforces my growing belief that the 'hybrid' system is far more prevalent than I had imagined. Thanks so much.

    MYTHOPOET -- If it achieves the desired goal, then you can't go wrong. I'm a true believer in the concept that the wisest people are those who adapt to the moment. In other words...if it works, do it. Thanks so much for your input.

    CHESTERAMA -- I couldn't agree with you more. If you're someone who wishes to maintain a daily word count, then being a pantser is only going to bring you frustration and disappointment. There are days when I struggle to write only one or two pages. And there are other days when fifteen pages seem to flow with very little effort. If I sought a pre-set word count, I would certainly have to change my process, or stop writing. Because I'm not someone who can live with that much constant emotional pain. But as I've said before, to each their own. Thanks for the input.

    ADDISON -- Interesting process. It appears you turn the 'pantser' process upside down. I find it delightful to learn about all these varying techniques to achieving the same goal: a story that can hold the reader's attention from beginning to end. Thanks for posting your unusual approach.

    DEATHTOTRITE -- Well said, Death. Overwriting and a loss of directional focus are problems all writers should strive to avoid. However, I believe that pacing, brevity, and level of detail are all issues of personal preference. It comes down to what a writer feels most natural with. Because no author is going to please everyone. Simply not possible. Therefore, each writer must write in a way that is most instinctive and comfortable to them. Fortunately, there are enough varying styles to please every reader's taste. Thanks for the great input.

    --to be continued--
     
  20. Ronald T.

    Ronald T. Troubadour

    172
    86
    28
    --continuing--

    INCANUS -- I agree with your statement about the differences. But, at the same time, I'm also amazed at the degree of intertwining similarities. Until I read all these enlightening and thought-provoking posts, I would never have guessed that so many writers use bits and pieces of both techniques. I assumed it might be the case for a few writers, but never dreamed it took place on such a grand scale. Although it seems there are basically only two main techniques -- pantsers and outliners -- clearly the most staggering differences come about in how we use the various aspects of these techniques. Fascinating. Thanks for the input.

    SKIP.KNOX -- I had to laugh out loud when I read your statement about being an olfactory writer. It's not easy to get a belly laugh out of me, but you did just that. Very funny. Thanks. And I agree with you about not limiting ourselves. Whether we use one of the senses or all five, whether we're left-brained or right-brained, or whether we're one-eyed or humpbacked, the important thing is that we write a story or novel that keeps the reader turning pages. That is the ultimate goal. And as to whether we have a brain or not, in the end, our readers will make that determination for us. Thanks for the input, Skip.

    CHESTERAMA -- I agree. Research is key in almost everything. But while doing so, we must never ignore our basic natural tendencies. What comes natural should always play a role in choosing a technique. If how you write feels natural, and therefore more comfortable, it will come across in your writing. If it is forced, that too will come through on the page. The best route: acquired knowledge tempered with natural instinct. But that's just one opinion. Thanks so much for your input.

    * * *

    I will continue tomorrow. But right now, I have a few house chores to take care of. Until then, my best to you all.

    --to be continued--
     
    Last edited: Oct 29, 2015
Loading...

Share This Page