Tuesday, June 8, 2010

I'm an outliner.

I am most definitely the type of writer who needs to outline. I can fiddle around for a few weeks with writing random scenes and random moments of character development, but sooner or later, the not knowing exactly what will happen to my characters starts to freak me out. I MUST outline.

I am happy to say that I did finally work up a good outline for Baptism for the Dead today, at last! it's been around six weeks since I started working on this novel. That's the longest I've ever gone without outlining and then making serious, concentrated progress. These have been very frustrating weeks for me. I feel drifty and fuzzy without my outlines.

The nice thing about the process of writing an outline is that I see the story actually happen in little short scenelets, like small clips from a movie. As I look back at the outline and expand each part into a chapter or a scene, I am able to replay and revise and embellish the scenelets into whole cinematic spans, and I simply write down what I see. Easy cheesy.

Best of all, as I work on the outline the final scene forms in my head, and I am a "write to the end" writer. Once I know exactly how the story ends, and can see that moment of catharsis and resolution playing on a loop in my brain, the stuff between the title page and that last scene practically writes itself.

Outlining is the key to my speed and efficiency. I love it.

Are you an outliner, or a by-the-seat-of-your-pantser (more commonly called a pantser)?


  1. I'm an outliner, but for this current novel I've been less strict about it. There's less history from the New Kingdom so there's less I absolutely had to stick to in order to keep the story accurate.

    Unfortunately, this makes for a much messier draft. Such is life.

  2. Hi Libbie,

    I'm glad to have found your blog -- I live in Seattle too (well, a bit north). And I'm on submission as well, so we have something in common there.

    I'm definitely a panster, but I so want to be an outliner. I'd make a lot less mistakes and probably wouldn't spend so much time writing myself out of plot holes if I outlined.

  3. Hey there Libbie! I found your blog and your TV program through the Atheist Experience's blog, which I am a big fan of. I am glad that there is another atheist program around to watch (although it might fill my TV timetable). Like I said on the AE blog, we need such programs here in the UK and in my native Quebec. It is also great to find an atheist who is a novelist and not a scientist, as I am a man of literature myself who came to atheism reading not science books but the French existentialists (and listening to Jacques Brel).

    And I also noticed that A Clockwork Orange is one of your favorite sci-fi novels. Anthony Burgess is my favorite writer, so I'm always glad to find another admirer. And you seem to be into Nabokov too, which is great.

  4. I am definitely an outliner. My outlines have become progressively more flexible with every book, but I still need that guide. Given that I also write out of sequence, an outline is definitely necessary, lest I go completely mad.

    My hat's off to those who can wing it. I've tried, and I just can't do it. (Though my "failed attempt" at outlining ultimately resulted in The Best Man, so it wasn't entirely a wasted exercise...lol...)

  5. Hi, Jennifer!

    Well, technically I live in Edmonds, but nobody knows where that is, so I always just say Seattle. ;) That's very cool that you're on submission! Good luck to you! We should get together some time for coffee.

    Guillaume -- welcome! Ask An Atheist was a lot of fun to work on...unfortunately I probalby won't be back until the summer is over due to a schedule conflict. But we'll see! I do hope more similar shows emerge. And yes, I am a huge fan of Nabokov! I haven't read a single thing he's written yet that I don't love. I still haven't dared to read The Original of Laura,though...not sure I want to read his unfinished work.

    I apparently can't wing it, either, Lori. trying to make progress on Baptism for the Dead in "wing it" mode got me a lot of very pretty prose and absolutely no story or character development. Not terribly useful.