Can you believe I blogged seven days in a row? I think this is a first for me. I'm actually enjoying the daily release of the massive jumble of thoughts going on in my head at any given time. Today, after I drop off father's day gifts, it will be an outlining day focused on Book 4 in my J.J. McCall series. I'm going to type up the notes I've written so far with the twists and turns and try to structure the chapters. My other book will be edited and submitted by July 6th and then the work on The Crazy Itch begins.
Today I'll just say a few words about outlining. When I first started writing, I turned my nose up at outlining and was a strict pantser. I thought a story would lack authenticity if I didn't just allow it to come to me. And really that was fine for romance. But when you're writing complex spy thrillers--NOPE. Pantsing doesn't work. Even if you manage to write the book, which I did in the first book in this series, you will end up with so many holes in your plot it will look like a minefield.
No, I've come to appreciate outlining for three key reasons.
- It helps eliminate plot holes and helps me to build a strong story structure.
- It keeps me productive when the muse is off on a bender. At the very least I can write to the outline and then edit it later.
- Because I don't have to wait for inspiration to strike, I write my first draft more quickly, which allows me to get the books written in 6-7 months rather than a year.
I don't know how you guys outline, but for me it's basically a paragraph or two that summarizes the major action in the chapter. And I use the cork board feature on Scrivener to lay out the chapters. It really makes it easy to do because I can move the order around or add in chapters if I need to. And then when I'm done with the outline, I print all notes out, staple them together, and keep those notes with me wherever I go along with my Moleskine notebook and gel pen (my two writerly vices). I'm at the age that when inspiration strikes, you have to write it down or it disappears into the ethers forever.
Rarely ever does my end product look like my initial outline. It's always way better. I truly believe in letting the characters have their way. If they make a decision I wouldn't have made or go in an alternate direction, I do my job--which is to follow them and see where they lead me. This has been my greatest lesson in outlining--YES, I write an initial outline but then I must allow myself the freedom to ignore it. When I allow my story to flow with the unexpected twists and turns, I still get to exercise my pantsing spirit--so it's really the best of both worlds.
Are you a pantser or an outliner...and why?
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