There seems to be two ways to write a novel: either you outline your story chapter by chapter, and once you’re satisfied enough, you put everything together. Saves a lot of time and it allows you think things over before you actually write the story.
Or, you could sit before your pad or computer and just write whatever comes to mind – better known as pantsing. You have a basic idea on what you want your novel to be, but you also know full well that anything could happen while putting your characters in a complex plot with emotional situations. It allows plenty of room for creativity and makes the writing process loads of fun, while outlining seems so rigid.
The problem is, you hit a lot of walls, get writer’s block often, and you may get lost. Completing your novel could also take much longer and your readers will soon become frustrated that your latest book isn’t out yet.
Either route has its ups and downs, their pros and cons. They are both frustrating and fun. But you have to figure out what works best for you as write your novel.
When I wrote my first book, The Dark Proposal, I was a total pantser. I had an idea in my head but I chose to basically wing it. There were some days where I barely did a paragraph, and some days I did half a chapter. It was unpredictable, but I enjoyed the ride. I learned so much about what it takes to write a novel, so I was practically doing on-the-job training.
That is not the case right now. Sure, I am still advancing my craft, but I am not really a beginner yet. I certainly wouldn’t say I am a veteran – oh hell no! But I have a follow-up to my book to write, and I can’t take forever to complete it. On top of that, I am working full time which eats up my chances of writing freely. I have solved that problem by setting a schedule for myself where I set aside three days a week to work on my WIP.
However, I am still mostly pantsing. I did make a list beforehand of what I wanted to happen in not just my second book, but my third so my trilogy would be set. I am still taking notes during my lunch break and I’m always analyzing about how to make my book intriguing. But once I go to Starbucks or Panera Bread, I write what comes to mind. I may write based what on my notes, but they aren’t about what happens scene by scene, so I really am winging it.
Maybe taking notes is a form of outlining, but its really not. I honestly feel rather disappointed in myself that I am not a bona fide outliner. I wish I was because it seems so much more disciplined. I don’t think of myself as undisciplined, but I do notice that I really enjoy jumping into new projects and finding what happens as I go. That may be a character flaw in me, but that just might be me.
Perhaps I just need to accept this part of myself. If I am a pantser, then so be it. But if I can evolve into an outliner, bring it on!
In other words, when you write, do what feels natural for you. Don’t force yourself to outline or take it as it comes. Do what is right for you. As long as you create a magnificent story and you are evolving as a writer, then why wish you were something else?