Monday, February 22, 2016

The Varied Writing Process

Every writer eventually finds a writing process that works for them. Some are strict outliners. Some are free wheeling pantsers. Many fall in between.

On the podcast I produce, my co-hosts and I have had the opportunity to talk to several other
Leonid Pasternak
authors (hopefully we'll be able to one day say several DOZEN authors, but I digress.) One thing we always talk about is their process. One author is a strict outliner. Another has a rough idea where their story is going but nothing is written in stone. But the vast majority so far we've talked to are in that in-between part.

Like me, we outline some. But we pants our way through our points. We have a pretty good idea where we're headed, but we don't always know how we're going to get there. And every author seems to have a different take on this. It's really quite fascinating to learn about the different nuances, and to know that regardless of the process, the end product--a finished, publishable book--is still the same.

It's interesting to listen to the different takes every author has. For instance, Jeff Gerke told a story about how in his early days (and pre-kids and pets) he meticulously outlined on 3 x 5 notecards an entire book, which he organized on the floor of his home. And he realized that in doing such a meticulous outline, it took the fun out of the writing process for him. As such, he never wrote that book.

But he learned that such detailed outlining didn't work for him.

For others, like K.M. Weiland, a detailed outline is the only way they can write a book. To pants their way through is nearly impossible.

Either way--plotting or pantsing (or a word we've coined on the podcast: plotsing)--works for different writers. There's no right or wrong way to do it. The important thing is that it works for YOU.

So tell me, what does your writing process look like? Do you outline extensively? Or do you start writing without much more than an idea and a few characters?
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10 comments:

  1. I get an idea, and run with it. No outline; that comes later after the story is finished. My stories develop on their own, from chapter to chapter. In the revision stage, I made changes to smooth everything out.

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    1. I used to write like that...then I had kids and did NaNo. I had to adapt to use an outline to make the most of my writing time. It's not strict, but it definitely gives me some rails to keep my paths in line.

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  2. That sounds so much like me. I actually did an outline, following Katie's Outline Your Novel workbook and it really did make things easier. But when I sat down to my new WIP--well, let's just say I'm still a britches girl.

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    1. :) In the last book I wrote, I was working a couple chapters ahead on my outline while I was writing. (It works for me.) Anyway, I hit a point and something happened completely out of nowhere to my characters. I still roll with the punches if something comes up, but it's nice to help keep me on track.

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  3. Pantser, definitely! It would take all the fun out of writing for me if I knew ahead of time what was going to happen. I usually start with something that pops into my head and refuses to leave me alone. That's my signal that it's my new book waiting to get out. Great post, Liberty!

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    1. :) I kinda miss those days. I kinda like having an outline now, even if it's just a rough idea...

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  4. I tried that no real roadmap thingie once and spent longer untangling my messes than in writing it. Especially with mysteries and a dedicated word count I really need a flexible outline.

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    1. That was my problem, too. Mysteries especially seem to need a bit of that structure to keep them on track. I don't regret adding in an outline at all, but the free-wheeling part of me does miss the true freedom of it all. ;)

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  5. Great article. I always start with an outline, but the characters always take detours. I love it.

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    1. When my next books are finally out, and I can do some spoilers, I'll probably share what some of my favorite detours were.

      I will say that in my 3rd release, CAPITULATION, my MC Darby and her partner, Mark, kiss for the first time, and I didn't know it was going to happen until it actually happened. Those kinds of detours I love. And it added a lot of complexity to that particular story. (sorry if I spoiled it--it comes early enough in that story that it's not TOO spoilery, though. ;) )

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