Currently reading the book “OUTLINING YOUR NOVEL: MAP YOU WAY TO SUCCESS “ by K. M. Weiland.

credits Warner Bros

According to Larry Brooks whom the author interviewed about the greatest benefits of outlining:

“Creatively, it is the opportunity to explore all possible and reasonable beats or moments in a story without having to actually write it. When that happens the writing simply becomes embellishment and life-giving, rather than exploration. If you know what happens – the mission of a scene – then writing it is one of two things: execution or seeking a better idea. With outlining you do that seeking pre-draft and thus you avoid the temptation to “settle” simply because “hey it works, I need to move on”. With outlining, what simply “works” (in a drafting process) is trumped by what works best.”

I found his perspective reasonably balanced although I do disagree with the”writing becomes embellishment and life-giving instead of exploration”.  Personally, the reason I tend to experience blockage when it comes to extensive plotting is because I feel like once I explore every possible nook and cranny the initial excitement may wear off.  Which I am sure may prove to be completely untrue. I don’t mind the exploration at all because I find this is the most fun part since I get to discover the story alongside the characters. Crafting new characters is just like having new babies, you get excited just by looking at them; you start by stalking every possible little resemblance to you!  I know a character is ready and well fleshed out when they start developing a mind of their own and refuse to go along with the initial plan. When that first happens I am usually pissed like “I created you so get with the program”, but then I remind myself that just like children they need to find their own way in life and the fact that they’ve taken a  life of their own  simply means that they are well articulated individuals if not completely sane. Frankly, I don’t like the word “pantser”, it implies sloppiness and absolute lack of planning in my mind, and I much prefer “character-driven” VS plot-driven.

I think that some genres are less amenable to “pantsing“than others. As an example maybe Fantasy or thrillers would probably require some form of extensive planning and it would be practically impossible to wing it. I am sure we could find many other types of examples.

In my case, what might be considered “pantsing” is actually spending quality time with the characters to discover who they are, what makes them tick, what is wrong with them, what they are avoiding in their lives, with absolutely no pressure for them to performg any particular act in any particular order. I just want to get to know them, no pressure. I do think that, just like people, “characters” when they know nothing is expected of them, they tend to show up as their real selves.

I have come to realize in my writing life that the method that will probably work best for me is to first focus on developing the characters with a light outline that is not restrictive and then once I feel I have a good grip of the characters, to go for an extensive plotting session in order to explore “all possible and reasonable beats and moments of the story” just like Mr Brooks suggested.

Once the characters are well formed I find that they basically hand me the plot.

I am not even half way through the book yet but I  am convinced that overall, this specific bit has tremendously helped me in incorporating more solid outlines in my writing process.

And last, but not least: “have fun! You’re playing God!” Which is probably why I am a writer in the first place. If only getting pregnant could be that easy…..more on that next week…


  1. Ida Auclond 22 December 2016 / 1 01 07 120712

    I have read Larry Brooks’ book Story Engineering. It’s good, but he… has a kind of condescending attitude toward pantsing (and seems to hold a grudge against Stephen King). Also, the way he talks about how good plotting will “save” you from writing several drafts… does the guy even like writing? XD

    For my part, I’m a “plantser”. I plan very vaguely, then I go with the flow; when I reach about 20k words, I plan some more (or rearrange what’s already written), then go with the flow again and so on. I just cannot plan everything from the start, that’s not how I create. That would take all the fun out of writing. But I can’t go “without a safety net” either for fear of getting blocked and not knowing what the story is actually about. Then again, unlike Mr Brooks, I don’t have publishing or productivity in mind when I write. I have fun, that’s all I need.

    (I love Phoebe.)


    • fduplessy 31 December 2016 / 20 08 38 123812

      You’re so right! I like to be surprised and discover as I go along…if writing can’t be fun, what’s left?

      Liked by 1 person

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