Friday, October 14, 2011

Technicalities, Vol 1: Outlining vs. Ripping Off Somebody's Trousers

This entry is just a snippet of a multi-part saga dealing with the technicalities behind writing. Posts and subsequent discussions focus on how we write.

YUP. Exactly what I think of.
It's the age-old question, especially during this time of year when Nano season is in full bloom.

"Are you an outliner, or are you a pantser?"

Now, if you're like me, you hear "pantser" and immediately think of that one snot in your middle school who would run around and rip people's pants down and go HAR HAR HAR UR UNDERWEAR LOL. (Oh, the years before that was considered sexual harassment. How I wish I was born later~) Of course "pantsing" refers to the saying of "flying by the seat of one's pants" but it still sounds stupid. So, for the sake of this post, we'll call pantsing "flying" to preserve this author's sanity.

Some people swear by outlining: they get the most satisfying work done by carefully constructing their entire novel via bullet point (including dates and times) that they will later flesh out in their word processor. Others find that when they "waste time" outlining they end up not using it at all and they fly through their story without knowing what's going to happen next. There are obvious advantages and disadvantages to both ways, and it all comes down to your own personal preferences and experiences - we authors know best that all our brains function differently and what works for one does not work for all. Thankfully, I've never seeing outlining wank before....but that would be interesting...and good way to spend a Sunday evening...quick somebody start some outlining wank!

I used to be a pretty hardcore flyer. I've always been the type that once I have an idea I just wanna sit my ass down at the keyboard and start typing, finding out about my characters as I go and letting them take me through the plot. As I got older and got more serious about making a career out of my writing - and, not to mention, focusing on extensive series where lots of crap happens - I started jotting down occasional notes that I wanted to remember for the future. And then I started outlining. But only a little.

I still am the type to just make stuff up as I go...but only little things, like dialogue banter, settings, sometimes who's in what scene and what order they fall in. The only thing I outline now are the Big Bad Plot Points, especially the climatic endings once I have them figured out because LOL I FORGOT. Sometimes for Nano I'll make a scene-by-scene outline just so I have something to continuously work on but I don't think I will this year.

My line of thinking is...if it was really a Brilliant Idea,then I'll remember it. And I still remember a lot of my OMG I MUST WRITE that ideas that I had a few years ago. I've never outlined the third novel of CROSS// but I know exactly how it will play out, all the way down to certain scenes. Of course, you could argue that I should still write down notes in cause I get like, thrown into a coma and get amnesia. But if I ever get amnesia that bad I think I'll have more things to worry about than my writing career.

So in short: outlines are for academic papers, yo. Writing fiction is about literary abandon and writing off the cuff, unless of course you're really afraid you'll forget that one thing. Well, you know, for me anyway.

What's it going to be, readers? Especially for this year's Nano?

Outlining or pantsing flying?


  1. I keep track of the general plot points but generally I'll be ripping people's trousers off. It's more fun to learn who the mystery shooter was at the same time as the main character.

  2. I've got my Nano novel's beginning, middle, and end. The first half is roughly plotted but I can't do more than that or I lose my motivation to write the story. I'm a pantser through and through. I don't want to know exactly what happens, it takes away a part of what I like best about writing. I want to be as surprised as my reader will hopefully be.


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