Pantsing your way to a story

“Stories are relics, part of an undiscovered pre-existing world. The writer’s job is to use the tools in his or her toolbox to get as much of each one out of the ground intact as possible. Sometimes the fossil you uncover is small; a seashell. Sometimes it’s enormous, a Tyrannosaurus Rex with all the gigantic ribs and grinning teeth. Either way, short story or thousand page whopper of a novel, the techniques of excavation remain basically the same.”

Stephen King – “On Writing”

There are tons of articles about plotting and pantsing. It’s a little absurd. And I really do get why plotters do what they do. I think it’s probably more of a personality preference than a successful writing strategy. I, however, despise outlines and will probably never use one when I write other than to keep track of what I have already written. Here are three reasons why i don’t use outlines, at least anymore, and why it’s a good thing.

My Characters suffer

When writing a story, characters seem to pop out of nowhere in my head, and then I find interesting things for them to do. I simply can not do this if I outline. I tend to have a main character who finds a bunch of cardboard NPC’s if I do this. It just isn’t a good thing.

But if i go in and just tell the story that’s in my head, this resolves itself. I may only have one to three characters in a story, but they will be far more interesting than the scallywag who happened to tell my main character where to find some jewel on a side quest.

plot points are not a story

When I relay the events of my life by telling a story, I do not order them out on a sheet of paper or in Scrivener before I tell my friends. Sure I have an idea of how it went down, but that doesn’t mean the events are perfectly ordered, or even that my story suffers from them being slightly out of order. Drawing from the quote at the top, if you found the fossil’s head next to its foot, would you say that it wasn’t a T-Rex? Or that you found it in an interesting way?

what if something changes

So you’re writing at full steam, hitting all of your plot points, and then it happens. You notice that one of your points down the line won’t jive with the story as it is being written. And if that point doesn’t flow, then several others are rendered moot. All of a sudden your outline is useless and needs to be -almost- completely redone. Well that’s a lot more time wasted. I did this a couple of times and I almost broke my computer. Maybe I’m just a bad outliner and that’s why that happened.

Oh well!

If you need to outline, I get it. Not everyone can sit down and just write a story. In fact, some writers believe outlining is how to beat writer’s block. If that’s you, more power for it. If not, I hope i gave you some insight into why I ditched my outlines, and maybe you should too.

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