Thursday, October 8, 2009

Outline versus Go with the Flow

I am often torn between outlining what I write versus just seeing what happens. A few weeks back I read a post here, which basically said you should have fourteen chapters outlined before you start writing. So since I am re-writing a YA with a pretty complex plot, I thought I'd give it a try. I opened up my journal, found a pen that seemed to glide across the paper (if you didn't know, this is a must; if the pen ain't smooth, it's automatic writer's block), and went at it.

The problem is that when I started writing, nothing that I outlined actually happened. When I write, I'm watching a movie in my mind. Except that it's better than a movie. I actually jump in and out the bodies of all the characters. I feel what they feel. I react how they react. If they are making a facial expression or clenching their gut, I actually do that. It's the ultimate experience. So I don't really know what's going to happen. I have to wait and see how it plays out. Sometimes, something happens that I don't expect.
Now, that I think of it, I bet I look pretty funny when I write.

Anyway, I'm wary because I used the "go with the flow" method when I wrote my original manuscript and I ended up not being happy with the pacing or the plot. I do spend a lot of time thinking/imagining before I write, so I do have a direction in mind. But, I'm afraid that if I keep going with the flow, I'll end up writing another no go.
What do you guys do? Outline? Or just see how it unfolds?


  1. Like you, I've been pondering this question myself. I'd forgotten about the blog you linked. I'll have to go have a look at it again and see what I've missed over the weeks.
    I'm a go with the flow kinda gal, and am often surprised by the turn of events in MY story. But I ran into a wall on my current WIP, and I think I may try to the whole outlining thing.
    The older I get, the more I conform!

  2. I write my first draft without an outline--that way it can go any direction it takes me--but I use an outline for revisions (so I can see the story on just a few pages instead of hundreds and plug in scenes that I want). I rewrite so many times that the story changes drastically from one revision to the next.

    I think either outlining or free form can work and in the end you've got to stick with the way you are most comfortable writing.

  3. Definitely not an outliner, though I tend to know the story's arc in the beginning and just let the characters connect the dots.

  4. I think we were given great imaginations and can play out things so well in our minds for a reason. Hope your rewrites go well. :O)

  5. I'm more of the organic go-with-the-flow writer. I hate outlines. I try to get something down first and then see where the characters take me. That's the joy of discovery for me.

    Recently, though, with the help of my critique group, I'm looking at outlining as "concepting." In other words, I'm trying to make it a creative endeavor instead of a right-brained one. I find this helps when I sit down and write..."What if...?"

    Nice blog you have.