Hey, A. E. here. Today I want to talk about why I specifically, myself as my own writer, do not outline. This is not a post about why other writers should not outline, but why I personally do not. I think writers need to write in a way that is productive and conducive to getting the writing done.
It bothers me when writing sites or author vlogs keep pressing the importance of outlining and how outlining is better than pantsing. I can see the value in outlining, but as long as the writing gets done in a reasonable amount of time, then it doesn’t matter whether or not you’ve outlined.
I am a panster, not an outliner or planner. I don’t do outlines, they just…they feel like trying to write in a box where I don’t have enough room to move my pencil. I simply can’t be creative in a box or with rules enforced.
However sometimes I forget that, and I try to outline. So, I made an outline for Emmy Bell and the Gate to Myra up to chapter 6, including chapter titles. It was pretty clear cut but I ended up feeling too restricted to end up writing any of it.
And normally, I don’t ever write with an outline. I just start writing. Sometimes from the beginning, sometimes I write the ending of the story first and other times I’m writing bouncing from different scenes that I find interesting at that time.
Write how you write.
Just make sure the way you write actually gets the writing done. If the “way you write” means you only get 100 words done a week…then maybe you need a different writing plan.
But if writing without an outline gets the words down, then don’t feel the need to force yourself to follow writing advice that insists on needing an outline to write a book. A book only needs words to be written, and how you go about writing those words is up to you.
But I can admit that I’m not wholly 100% a planner.
I’ll use my writing process with my debut The Other Side as an example. I had a lot of false starts when I started at the beginning. Starting at Chapter One I ended up continually rewriting Chapter One over and over again, because Chapter One was never right.
Then, I simply began to write from scenes that popped in my head. I wrote random scenes, and slowly put them into order, then began to fill in the empty blank spaces, stitching the scenes together into a cohesive story. I can’t even tell you when I actually did write Chapter One.
Then after I had a complete story put together, and I figured out what exactly I wanted to happen in what order, and what needed to be done. I did in fact end up with a sort of outline, but I had already written in the book, and it was more of a guideline, rather than the rules to write the story.
Then I was able to rewrite the story suggested by my guidelines, making sure I was hitting the plot beats I wanted to hit, and I completed the novel on my tenth draft, and self-published The Other Side in September of 2018.
So when it comes to outlining, I really can’t start with an outline, is the better way to put it. If I outline first, I feel nothing towards writing the story. If I write the story first, I can piece out a pseudo-outline from that. I can say for at least my first draft, I have to pants it.
Hop on and let the story travel and take me anywhere, without any outline, without any guidebook or road map. Then once I’ve gone all over the place, I can figure out which parts of the story are what I want to keep, what order I want them in, how this will turn into that, and make a new completed draft from there.
As for Emmy Bell and the Gate to Myra, her draft is shuffling along, scene by scene, and now that I’m figuring out more about what I want to do with her, and her story, I know I can meet my December 31st, 2021 deadline. I can’t wait to upload a post saying that the first draft is completed of either Emmy Bell and the Gate to Myra, or Zippy Mae and the Seven Kingdoms.
I’m writing both at the same time!
In conclusion, if there’s anything to take from this, is don’t let the fuss about outliner/planner v panster get to you. Figure out what your writing process is, making sure it’s a process that gets words down on the page, and go for it. If outline doesn’t work for you, then don’t outline, and don’t think you’re not a real writer if you don’t outline. If the book, short story, screenplay, poem, song, journal, whatever, if it gets written without an outline, you’re still a real writer.
So go write!
And as always, while I write my cat Aomine keeps me company by my side.