Sunday, April 15, 2012

Confessions of a Pantser

Apparently, I am the worst when it comes to updating my blog. That's something I'm going to need to get in the habit of doing more regularly.

I figured this would be a good time to check in on one of my writing goals for the year. As writers, it's important to set goals for a great many things. Whether you write full-time or in the stolen moments between the intrusions of life, setting goals and measuring your progress is vital. For reference, all the goals I listed earlier this year can be found in this post. Today, I want to talk about this one in particular:

"-Try to write a book, or at least most of a book, using an outline."

As I said when writing that goal, I've been a "pantser" up to this point. I get ideas, do research on them if necessary, jot down a couple notes about where I expect the story to go, and then write. Basically, I have an idea, a beginning, a desired ending, and then I make up everything in-between as I go along. It's worked for me so far. "The dark side" was doing an outline and I read other writers' blogs in which they extoled the virtues of outlining. "Oh, the creativity!" said I. "Surely you cannot be creative and spontaneous when you're committed to following an outline!"

"Au contraire," the outliners said. "This does not stifle creativity. And stop calling us Shirley."

Chastised, I sat down and did an outline. It's probably not the most super-detailed outline in the history of outlining, but it works for me. Basically, I laid out what I expected would happen in each chapter and dedicated 4-5 sentences to those events. That's my outline. It's a lot more than I used to do but manages not to feel rigid. I still have room to be creative and let the characters do the storytelling -- I've already written two scenes I didn't plan on initially. Those scenes integrated themselves into the outline and the story easily. As a pantser, that was my main concern going into the outline process.

One of my hobbies is playing and judging the Magic: the Gathering card game. The head designer of Magic, Mark Rosewater, writes a weekly column for the game's official site. In one of his columns, he mentioned that limitations actually made creativity easier. I read that and thought it was a silly idea. Now that I'm writing with an outline, I see his point. I don't think the outline is a limitation; it's more of a framework that keeps me from coloring too far outside the lines. So far, it's working great and I think I'm going to use it for future books.
Getting a lot of ideas and walking thru the story up front benefits me as a writer. Maybe it could benefit you too.

Next time, I'll probably look back at some other 2012 goals, and I may finagle some ideas to write a new blog post each day for a week.

Happy writing.