I’ve always considered myself a seat-of-the-pants writer rather than an outliner. Lately I’ve been wondering if there’s an in-between technique that can also work.
Character(s) to care about
POV (Whose eyes are we looking through?)
What will be the moment when everything changes? (Catalyst)
I like to write the beginning of a new book knowing only those things, and with a tip of the hat to Nancy Kress, the primary throughline as well as the promise I’m making to the reader. (See her book, Beginnings, Middles, and Ends for more on these.)
Another piece of advice from Carol Berg that resonates with me: “Live the story with the characters.” Is it possible to do this if you’re following an outline?
What I’ve done with recent books is begin an outline at about Chapter Four, after I’ve got the story’s momentum going. The outline is rough, but helps me stay focused on the throughline and the major turning points. Doing this allows me to “live the story with the characters” while still having some guideposts along the way.
I stay a little ahead of the story with my outline, and as I write scenes, I go back and make adjustments to it as necessary. When I’m done with the book, the completed outline is a great help in revising, as I can read through it quickly and determine where to splice and dice.
This method works for me. What works for you? Are you a diehard outliner, seat-of-the-pantser, or somewhere in between, like me?
(FYI, Carol Berg was also on this year’s PPWC faculty. Her sessions included “What is this Thing Called Voice” and “Words, Words, Words.” Her talks are filled with astute observations about writing craft and many examples to illustrate her points.)