Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Do you outline or extemporize?

Oh, I've been involved in a scary experiment.

Usually I outline carefully before I write anything, especially a novel-length piece. For my current WIP, I decided just to plunge in without a plan, in hopes that it would make the main character seem lost and wandering. The first half (30,000 words) went great, but then I just couldn't go on. Of course, it was because I didn't know where the story was headed, or what the point of all of it was. Just wandering only worked for so long. There had to be a goal.

Yesterday I realized it was time to do the old outlining bit. It had never occurred to me before this that I could wing it for the first half and outline the second half, combining the two approaches. I did so, and now I know exactly where I'm going.

I'm not telling my main character yet, though. Don't want to ruin the surprise for him!

How thoroughly do you outline? Have you ever tried to grow a plot organically as you write, without the plotpoints in place?


  1. I used to be a pantser, but now I'm a hardcore planner. I make a synopsis of the entire plot. Then I break it up into chapter summaries--detailed chapter summaries with clips of dialogue and everything. I usually have between 20 and 30 pages of notes before I begin writing. Crazy, right? But it works. I don't stare at blank screens. I do veer from my chapter summaries or have to rework them to add things, but at least I have a good idea of where I'm going at all times.

  2. I find that if I don't make some kind of plan, I end up with so much revising and struggling to get some kind of coherent plot. So, I have to have a plan.

  3. I've always been a pantser. I know a few key scenes, how the book starts and ends, but that;s it. Then I just write.

    Lately tho, I've tried outlining, and may just reform my ways. It's given me some good insight into story structure and how valuable it is to a novel.

    We'll see what happens when I sit down to write my outlined novel. Once before I tried this, but ran out of creative juice, because i knew everything that would happen and so lost interest.

    Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse

  4. Speaking as a composer of music, I tend to do as much sketching as possible, not always sure what's going to happen or where it will go. A lot comes to naught, but eventually I hone in on something that I want to work with. I develop it as it suggests itself to me, but eventually it is time to figure out what It Is All About. So form comes sooner or later. What is my point? Where am I going with this? What do I want the audience to get out of this? And most importantly, how will I achieve this? Somewhere along the way, the outline happens.

    On the other hand, whenever I have to write words (as opposed to music) I'm always starting with an outline.

    As for the discarded sketches? I save them. When I'm stuck I go back to them for inspiration toward a new project.