Sunday, 18 May 2008

Changing Tactics

I’m trying something new this week. Doing the unheard of, the unthinkable for a seat of her pants type of writer. I’m having a go at writing a book from an outline.


This doesn’t, I’m sure, sound so outrageous to you plotters out there. But for me it’s a big deal. Whenever I’ve tried to write a story from an outline in the past it just hasn’t worked. Either I deviate so much from the synopsis the book becomes a completely different story or the process of plotting the book destroys all my enthusiasm for writing it in the first place. I like the mystery of not knowing what’s going to happen from scene to scene, never quite being sure how everything will be resolved.

The problem with that method is that it’s a very time consuming way to write. I go off on tangents in the name of exploring new plot ideas as they arise, spending days, sometimes weeks, writing myself into what ultimately turns out to be a dead end. I’m loathe to call this time wasted, because all writing is good practice and I’ve often re-used scenes and ideas I’d originally intended to use in book A for book B or C. Re-writes are inevitable, which means major cuts are inevitable.

But lately I’ve been growing more and more frustrated with the slow progress of writing as a pantster. If I was fortunate enough to be writing full time I might be willing to accept the hours spent tapping away at the computer meandering down various plot paths just to see where they lead. But I’m lucky to eek out two hours a day total for writing, and that time also has to be used for emails, promo and other activities like blogging and keeping up with what’s happening in the market through various email loops I’m on. I’ve just had a yawn thinking about it. I really, really want to be more productive with the time I have, to finish something I’ve started within a reasonable time frame. To that end, I’m trying the follow an outline method.

Fortunately, in this instance I’m familiar with my characters. I’ve gone back to The Honeymoon Effect, last year’s NaNo book to see what I can make of it. Anyone who remembers that month will have to ignore my repeated self-flagellation about how terrible and boring the book was. So far writing the outline has benefited me enormously, as I can see the story’s not so devoid of excitement or emotional turmoil as I first thought. I probably wasn’t in the right mood last November (or maybe that’s the write mood?). Now I’ve added another chapter to the three rough ones I already had, 3800 words in three days, all without deviating from my intended plot.

Hopefully this steady progress continues. I’d love to put one of those word-a-meter things on my sidebar, but when I go to the site the instructions confuse me. It must be easier than it looks. Anyone out there care to enlighten me?



  1. Like you I'm a complete pantser, in fact I'm more of a scener. Lots of different scenes, all out of order. Good thing I like jigsaws.

    Try the word meters that I have, I'm completely computer unsavvy so if I can get them to work anyone can.
    Oh, in case you're confused I'm in disguise, necessary for the latest excitement in my life.

  2. Sami, good luck with the outline idea. I hope you hammer that manuscript into shape.
    3 800 words is damn good - especially for a book you were going to abandon.
    Keep us posted. I'm curious to see how a pantser gets by with a plan!


  3. I remember reading the beginning of this book and loving it, so I'm really glad you're giving it another go. I'm gonna try a different technique with my next book too. Fingers crossed it works well for both of us...

  4. Hey Sami... I am definitly a plotter (even at this early stage I have figured this out!!)... so good luck with the new move - as the saying goes the definition of insanity is continuing to do the same thing and expect a different result! So out with the old and give the new a go... if all else fails, you can always return to your comfort zone!


  5. Thanks everyone for your comments. Will be posting an update on my 'progress' soon.