Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Still plotting away...

I'm still working on my novel. I'm trying to do this one a bit differently in that I'm creating an extensive outline before I begin to write. So far, the work has been going pretty slowly. I'm finding that it's hard for me to come up with the level of detail I think an outline of this type should contain. I'm not normally by any means a pantser; I can't just sit down with a vague idea and turn it into a cohesive novel with little or no planning first. I'm a plotter; I need to have a plan. I like to know where my main character is going and how she's going to get there. I like to understand the relationships between the characters and how those relationships will affect the storytelling. My usual method of planning is to write notes about each of the main plot points, scraps of dialogue, scene ideas--that sort of thing. Then I take all of these haphazardly written notes and try to create a story out of them. It's not a perfect method, but for the most part, it's worked for me in the past.

For the last several months, though, I've been taking an online novel writing course, and the instructor advocates detailed outlines as a way of avoiding the stubborn plot holes and snags that sometimes occur when the writer hasn't considered his novel idea as carefully as he should have. What I'm learning, though, is that I get stifled by being "forced" to come up with too many details before I've begun the actual work of writing. Normally, as I'm writing a novel, I get into a zone, and the words just flow; scenes I hadn't even known were needed suddenly appear on my screen. I start with my idea and my rudimentary plan, and then words and ideas just seem to evolve. It's really a magical experience. I'm finding it harder to let my imagination take over within the confines of a detailed outline, however. I think I'll try working out a few more scenes as the instructor asked, but if I find that doing so is continuing to stifle my creativity, I'll go back to my own tried-and-true style.


  1. I've given this a lot of thought. I usually start out with some sort of outline. I like to have 60 chapters (60 is such a good number for dividing up). As I write, the outline changes. What I thought was one chapter becomes 2, or I have a one-liner that I thought would make a chapter, but it doesn't, so I have to scrap it.

    I think it's a compromise between charting out the journey and leaving enough room for creative changes as you go along. I'm off to write a blog entry about this. Thanks for the idea!

  2. Thanks for your comment! I love reading about other writing processes. I agree: I think there needs to be some kind of compromise between being a pantser and being a plotter.

    Looking forward to checking out your blog entry!