In the on-going debate between those who outline like crazy and those who write by the seat of the pants (SOTP), I tend to land in the middle these days. I tried outlining, even thought I could make it work, but no. Sorry. Not a good method for me.
But outliners have a point too. SOTP writing can often be disconnected, shallow, ineffective. Of course, the best SOTP’ers know that their first draft is just that–a draft to be edited and revised and reworked. It is to the SOTP’er what the outline is to the outliner.
Some of you know that I’ve been having a hard time with Ride to the Altar. I rewrote the first chapter four times and couldn’t move on (I’m one of those who can’t move on to chapter two unless chapter one is near perfect). This has bothered me no end. I closed shop for client edits around October last year with the intent of finishing Kayla’s Challenge for the Coming Home collection and starting Ride to the Altar so I could publish it in May.
Well, I got part of that done. Kayla’s Challenge is ready to rumble.
But Ride to the Altar is a different genre for me, and I’ve been struggling. It’s on my mind constantly. What am I doing wrong? How can I fix this? How can I weave in the subplot? How can I …. ? Why can’t I …. ? What’s wrong with me?!
While I was at the writer’s retreat, I came closer, and when I got home from the writer’s retreat, I had an epiphany and jotted down all the major events that should occur from beginning to end. But that was it. I still couldn’t fix the first chapter.
Then, while I was at Mom’s last week, I had another epiphany (around three in the morning, of all things. Who needs sleep? Sleep is for wimps!). But that epiphany told me how to fix the first chapter, and I’ve been on a roll ever since. Don’t know that I’ll make my deadline, but at least I can write again.
What does this have to do with SOTP writing?
I think out the outline. It’s all there, in my head, and when everything starts falling into place, I write. Until everything is right, I’m stymied. I suppose I could write an extensive outline, but I don’t see the point. Once I’ve thought it all out and know where I’m going and how to get there, why not just start writing? It’s a draft, after all. An outline with flesh, if you prefer.
The more I learn about the craft of writing—character and setting development, arc, structure, dialogue, etc.—the easier writing becomes. What occupies my mind is the plot, and once I develop the plot in my head, along with character motives, goals, and roadblocks, I can start writing. Craft comes naturally because of years of study.
So, again, I think of myself as a hybrid. I outline, I just don’t write it down. I know the sequence of events, but I get from point to point by the seat of my pants. But I can’t move from chapter to chapter unless the previous chapter is close to perfect. Don’t know if that’s SOTP or OCD, but there ya go. That’s how I roll.
Everyone develops their own style of writing. What’s yours?