I hope everyone is enjoying these last couple of weeks of summer. It looks like it is about to pour here.
Someone asked me this week if I am an outliner or a pantser when it comes to writing. This is a really common question. When it comes to nonfiction, I am an outliner. The process helps me organize the information and decide which facts have to go. When I write fiction, though, I’m more of a pantser. I start with a two or three sentence of what I want the story to be about, I think about who the characters are and how each might react in certain situations, and then I let the characters tell the story. The person I was speaking to jumped in to tell me how I’m doing it all wrong. She had read a book on the importance of outlining and had followed that method from there on. The method worked for her, so apparently she felt it was her duty to make me aware of the proper way to write. She even offered to loan me the book, since she has the system down pat. The implication being I mustn’t know about outlining or I would already be doing it the “right way.” The conversation reminded me of why I find the plethora of articles on the “right way” to write annoying.
First of all, I have no issue with people who outline. A woman in my crit group is an amazing outliner. I’ve never seen anyone do as complete a job of outlining as Wendy does. The method works for her. I would never try to convince her, the woman I spoke to, or anyone else that they needed to give up outlining to become a “real writer.” I see definite benefits to the method and I sometimes think it could be a real time-saver for me. However, most of my enthusiasm for a project goes into the first draft. Draft 2 and 3 are work. I don’t find them exciting and I have to push myself to get it done. The excitement doesn’t return until I feel the story is pretty well polished. I read an interview with an author in which he said he never talks about a WIP to anyone, because telling it to them saps him of the excitement of getting it on paper. I totally get that. If I outline, my excitement lands there instead of in the first draft. I need the excitement of the first draft.
The bottom line though is there are rules of spelling, grammar, punctuation, etc. that we all follow, but there is no one right way to write. If you’re starting out, explore different methods of writing. I have a bookcase full of writing craft books. Make it your goal to find the method that best fits you. (It may be a combination of methods.) Don’t feel a need to follow someone else’s path, do what works for you.
Have a fun weekend!