There are a lot of heated debates going on in the world today. Democrats vs. Republicans. Ravens vs. Steelers. Yankees vs. Red Sox. And then there’s the fight to the death duel between the plotters and the pansters. Plotters being people who meticulously plot out their stories ahead of time and pansters who fly by the seat of their designer jeans, khakis, or what have you.
Okay, maybe not a duel to the death. More like polite arguments – usually – in writing circles over the age old question: To Outline or Not To Outline? The real answer, no matter what anybody says, is do whatever works for you. It’s that simple. Some say you MUST create a detailed outline before you write or you are doomed to create an aimless story with unmotivated characters who will end up wandering off the page to die in the slush pile of unpublished manuscripts. Others say that outlining ahead of time will STIFLE your creativity! You shall not be bound and tethered to a rigid outline! You should frolic freely through gardens of your God-given creativity where you can pick wildflowers and gather rosebuds while ye may and all those kind of flower-related metaphors that you could never come up with if you were shackled to” The Man” of an outline who’s only trying to keep you down.
People get very attached to their own ways of developing their stories, but sometimes it’s good to shake things up and try things a different way. Or not. I am a plotter all the way. This goes back to my years of training as a screenwriter. When you’ve got 120 pages maximum to tell your story, there’s little time to frolic through the flowers or tiptoe through any type of vegetation.
With a screenplay, you’ve got to tell your story in the shortest, tightest way possible so I learned quickly to develop a very clear outline before typing FADE IN. Now that I’ve switched to novels, I’ve still been taking a long time to develop a very specific outline before I start writing actual pages. With my latest novel, SINGLES VS. BRIDEZILLAS, I began working with a very loose outline. I had the basics down, but didn’t bother going into specifics before writing.
I hated it.
I hated it so much.
I found it such a drag to sit down in front of the computer every morning and have to figure out exactly what comes next. I liked knowing exactly what was going to happen, who was in the scene, and what they were talking about before I started writing. That way I could get right into the heart of the scene and get lost in what the characters were thinking and feeling because I already had thought about it ahead of time. It’s hard for me to imagine just flying blind and making stuff totally up as I go along, but I guess I can understand why some people do.
Pansters are as big of a mystery to me as Republicans are.
My philosophy of writing and politics is the same. Do whatever you want as long as you’re not hurting anybody. And if I’m not hurting anybody, stay out of my business and let me do what I want.
That’s all there is to it.
World peace. Right there.
Group hug, guys!