Sunday, July 17, 2011

Outlining My Pants and Pantsing My Outline

Hurrah! I finished my first draft for my WIP this week! Sha-boogaloos and happy dances for everyone!

I'm pretty pleased with what's there, too. Fingers crossed, and touch wood for good measure, but I'm hoping the edits will be fairly painless.

The following quotation by E. L. Doctorow sums up what the experience of writing this book has been like:
It's like driving a car at night. You never see further than your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.
Word. With this novel, it seemed like I was never very sure what was going to happen next. I had a vague idea of what the ending was going to be and what the characters were going to experience--and that was it. I brainstormed every new scene as I came to it.

And it's not that I didn't try to outline the novel in advance--it's just I finally realized I might as well be struggling to write the book instead of struggling to write the outline.

I'm not really a seat-of-the-pants writer. I do need to know what the scene I'm going to write contains before I start typing it up. However, I'm obviously not quite a plotter either. And although I find it anxiety-inducing to not know where a story is going, maybe this isn't such a bad way to do things.

When I write scene by scene, I'm always focused on this moment. I have to concentrate on making the scene pop to life and feel immediate because--Gandalf and Yoda preserve me--it's all I've got. I cannot skip ahead. There is no "ahead". Not yet. Big ol' black hole waiting to eat me, right there.

I think most writers fall somewhere between the extremes of "Seat Of Ma Pants, OMG" and "Full Metal Outline". Where do you fall, and how do you split things up? When do you sit down and brainstorm, and at what point do you just dive in and write? Do you always do things one way, or does it change from project to project? I'd love to hear about your technique.

P.S. - I just finished A Dance With Dragons, and George R. R. Martin is an evil, evil, black-hearted man. Oh, how I love him and his wonderful books!

Author website: J. J. DeBenedictis

Pageloads since 01/01/2009: