The past couple of weeks have been killer! It’s the end of the school year and I’ve had to not only mark final projects but also get all the final grading in (I’m still not done!), and fill out reports for more than 100 kids. Between archery lessons, wall climbing sessions, actually teaching and of course grading, I’ve also been writing… a lot! In the past three weeks, I’ve managed to write more than 25k words of a brand new novel and here’s how…
For the first time ever, I’m using an outline, a real one that I’m actually more or less following. This wasn’t a quick jot-down of main ideas and start writing type of outline, this is an outline I started developing while working on the edits for I Heart Robot. In the month it took me to finish edits on that, I was also working on my outline and even wrote a synopsis for this to-be-written novel! I have NEVER EVER written a synopsis for a novel not yet written before and it was extremely helpful – if somewhat painful to do at the time.
As a pantser, forcing myself to work on an outline instead of diving into the manuscript was a special kind of torture. I had this idea brewing for a month, the characters screaming inside my head, but refused to let myself write a single word of it until A) I finished edits B) I knew how the story ended and C) I had a decent opening line. During that month I wrote down every idea I had for the story, I wrote down snatches of dialogue and bits of description, and I developed character arcs – something that is super important round about now, having finished the first act of the draft.
My outline is nothing special – just a spreadsheet with columns for setting, POV, scene etc. With the scenes all set out, I’m also jumping around in this ms while juggling four POVs. To be honest, it was the number of POVs that made me nervous. Trying to keep track of who’s doing what and where from four perspectives while not knowing what’s coming next would have been a nightmare! At least now it’s all laid out for me – or at least, laid out enough that I feel comfortable deviating from the outline without writing myself into a corner or messing up the plot. This has all been pleasantly surprising.
Until now, I’ve been against outlines because I thought it would A) stifle my creativity and B) bore me to already know how the story ended. Having an outline is proving the exact opposite! I’ve never been so excited to write because what awesomeness is just around the corner and this keeps me motivated to keep writing – so not boring! As for stifling creativity, pfft! Now that I know what’s happening, I can actually focus on the writing, on making the world come to life and each character’s voice truly unique. Having an outline has made greater creativity possible. Why didn’t I know this three years ago!?
Having an outline is also making writing go that much quicker since I don’t have to um and ah over what happens next, I can just write it. Had I been pantsing this story, I probably would’ve got stuck around the 10k mark, rewriting my first chapter for the umpteenth time, while trying to figure out what’s supposed to happen in my story. Given my busy schedule, having an outline is invaluable because it saves on thinking time and grants me more writing time.
So what’s the verdict? I might not go so far as to call myself a reformed pantser, but I definitely see the benefit of outlining and from now on, this will be most certainly be part of the way I approach a new manuscript instead of just diving into the writing. Outlining makes the whole process easier and let’s face it…
If you’re a pantser, have you ever tried outlining? What were the results?
If you’re a plotter, ever tried pantsing it?