Today, I’m going to talk about a strange thing about me. I am Outline-Phobic and am fairly serious when I claim to be allergic to prewritten outlines.
Here’s what I mean:
I start out a writing project with a vague idea of the three main plot points, the beginning, middle, and end as it were. If I plan much more than that, I end up with writers block because I feel enslaved to the plan rather than feeling that I have the ability to change the plan as I write. I am a discovery writer and an unrepentant pantser. This works for me. This does not work for everyone. At a recent writing workshop I helped present, I made the statement that if the project changed course, you could scrap the original plan and start over. One of my fellow presenters (very much a planner) almost had a panic attack at the very idea of trashing the entire outline.
The reason I claim an allergy only to prewritten outlines, not all outlines, is that after I start writing, I create an outline that details what I wrote. This is incredibly useful for revision. However, if I had written out the outline before I wrote the actual piece, I’d never write anything. I’d be stuck. I’ve tried many times to write outlines and then write the piece and it’s never worked. I even did this in high school when we were required to turn in an outline and then out final paper. I would write the paper by the outline deadline because otherwise my outline would have no relation to my actual paper (which teacher tended to frown upon).
This comes back to writers being strange creatures in general, as well as the highly individualized nature of writing. There are a million pieces of advice out there for writers, and half of them contradict the other half because every writer is an individual and has to develop their own habits, style, and workflow. Discovery writers go about things very different than writers who are more organization and planning oriented. Plotters get hopelessly lost without their outlines and Pantsers breeze through with little or no plan at all.
Which kind of writer are you?
Are you a pantser who sits down to write and flies by the seat of your pants until you write “the end” on the piece?
Or are you a plotter, someone who plans out each plot point, chapter, and even scene before ever writing a word of your manuscript?
Or are you a hybrid of the two with features of each style?