Myself? I was a “pantser” for a lot of years. I just wrote “by the seat of my pants” and let the story unfold as I went. It made me the first reader, the first person to know the story.
This method also made me take FOREVER to write a book. Every plot thread, I would agonize over. I wondered exactly what would happen if I did A, B, C, each time I thought of a way to write or tweak a scene.
Don’t get me wrong, I love making everything up as I go, each little twist that I come up with taking me by surprise, calling my fellow writer friends and going “Wow, guess what I just wrote!”
But as I did it, it took me longer.
And one of my goals in my writing is to be producing a good deal more books a year. Instead of writing one to three, I want to do at least four a year, possibly more if I can swing it.
It’s not a horribly unreasonable request, but it is something that’s going to take time, and I’m going to have to have an idea of where I’m going with each story, before I sit down and start writing.
Which has made me turn over to the dark side.
Something I never thought I would ever do. But I’ve done it now for two books, and it’s made writing them go a great deal smoother. (And it’s also nice to be able to send a copy of it to my editor, and get her thoughts on where I was taking the story, just in case she saw any issues that maybe I didn’t see).
My method, inspired by my friend AE Rought, requires note cards. I write down the general plot points on my note cards, and lay them out, (usually on my bed) taking a look at where each point would go. Then I add or subtract, moving around things as necessary to make a cohesive story line.
From there, I type up a general outline of the storyline. I color code the points for different POV’s if I have them to keep myself balanced between the characters, because almost everything I write is from different points of view.
But here’s the thing about outlining, and what I thought I had to do with outlining.
I THOUGHT I had to write EVERYTHING in the outline.
I figured out, after messing around with it, that I could still have my very “pantsy” scenes, but have a loose, general outline for the flow of the story, to keep me on track.
That seems to work well for me, to keep me in the flow of the story, so that as I’m writing, I know where I’m going, and what I’m doing.
In those moments when I’m not writing, I’m still flushing out those vague points in the back of my head. It allows me to continue to “pants” as I write each scene, but when I do sit down, I have a clearer vision of where I’m going.
And if I know where I’m going, I’m going to get there a lot faster.