Up until now, I’ve been a pantser. When I wrote Steel Rose, I sketched each character and drew a one-page synopsis of the story I imagined. Then off I went to my scenes, letting my imagination guide me through a plot. Sometimes I started in the middle of the book and worked my way backward; other times forward. I did this for Twilight Healer, the short stories in City of Brotherly Death, and the novellas Life Raft: Earth and Close Liaisons. Ditto for Bloodmoon Rising, which is being reviewed by a developmental editor. So I’m turning my attentions to another sequel, and started writing out my scenes, some for the beginning and others for the middle. A writer buddy recommended outlining, but I told myself outlining was reserved for the nonfiction setting, such as history textbooks. How dare I harness my muse to a stiff outline? So I nodded a smile toward my friend, but inside I blew a raspberry. Then later, I got stuck completing a chapter.
I’m giving outlining a second thought.
On Facebook, I got the sense that most authors prefer to outline before they start writing their book. They do this because they feel outlining gives them a sense of where they’re going with the story. They might alter the plot along the way, but they’ve started their work off the outline. So I started outlining a few chapters. It feels dry and brittle because I wanted to be free to chase scenes the way I do balloons at the Giant. At heart, I’m a pantser. Several times, I broke away from the outline and went back to writing out scenes. Expecting me to complete an outline before writing my novel…well that’s like hoping I’ll make it through the supermarket without buying balloons. But I’m willing to give outlining a serious try. That means writing an outline for each chapter. However, if I take a break and write scenes, that’s okay, too. There’s a lot to be said for the “flying by the seat of your pants” method. My characters have amazed me many times when I do this.
So…which method works better…plotter or pantser? Do you prefer to outline first or would you rather sit at the computer and wait for your characters to surprise you? I’d love to hear how the writing process works for other people.