Thursday, June 7, 2012

Pantsers Anonymous

Describe your outline process for your book. What do you do to stay organized?

Hi, my name is Tiana, and I'm a pantser.

I don't mean to be.  It just always seems to work out that way.   I come up with these great ideas.  I have a few scenes in mind and a vague idea of what order they should happen in.  I have a full cast of characters figured out.  I diligently sit down and write out a whole outline of all the scenes I know need to happen, getting from A to B.

Then I sit down, and I write, and the book I end up with is....very rarely the book I thought I was writing.

I know what happens, of course.  What happens is that the "outline" that I write is full of the first things I thought of.  The obvious answers.  The first thing that comes into your head is never the best thing, and it's rarely even a good thing.  What you actually want is the third or fourth or fiftieth thing.  By that point you're really thinking deeply about it and you find an answer that's rich and interesting.

But I don't really have the patience to do that much thinking when I write an outline.  Besides, I don't really know my characters until I've been with them for a few hundred pages.  I usually don't know what the book is about until I'm halfway through.  Oh, sure, I'll know what's going on...but I won't have my themes, and until I kno my theme, I don't know how the book ends.

So usually what happens is I get to the middle of the book, flounder around, figure out my theme, write the ending, and then make a whole bunch of notes to myself about how the book is supposed to go.  Then I take a look at my feeble "outline" and realize that it looks basically nothing like the book I just finished.

In order to combat this, I've started doing the only thing that really seems to work:  Writing a REALLY fast, rough, sloppy, ridiculous first draft.  Then taking that draft, tearing it apart, making a detailed outline from THAT, and working out all of the details of the re-write.

I'm doing that right now for my current WIP.  I'm storyboarding the whole thing out in a program called Storybook, which I greatly recommend.  We'll see if it works out for me...


  1. The best thing is we all find our own way in the end - what works for us.

  2. I agree with everything you wrote above. I hate detailed instructions telling me where I have to go. Ugh. Hell, I didn't even realize Yassa HAD a theme until I was done with it :) Ah well, such is life. WRITE ON!

  3. I am a pantser too. My stories never end up where they start out going. Good luck trying out thenew method of outlining! :)

  4. It sounds like a wonderful plan Tiana. My process is somewhat similar. I like it, but it can be a lot of work sometimes and my story still might sway from the outline. I'm okay with that though