Remember the book review I did for White Lies by Jeremy Bates? Today I am featuring a guest post by the author.
How to write by the seat of your pants: outline or no
I’ve heard both sides of this coin. Terry Brooks, for example, swears by the outline. He says he plans absolutely everything before he gets going. I can imagine why if you’re a fantasy author. There are just so many places and names and subplots that the middle of the book would become a big messy soup if you didn’t use an outline. On the other hand, Stephen King says once he has an idea, he just goes with it, kicking ass and taking names along the way. He says that a writer’s job is to give stories a place to grow and transcribe them. He also says he often has an idea of what the outcome may be, but that he never demands his characters to do things his way, and that in most instances, the outcome is not what he expected.
In my case, I fall into the King camp. I spend a fair bit of time before I write anything thinking about that all important what if question. Once I have that I spend a little more time playing out different story lines in my head. Once I have something that seems to work, I think of the main characters and start fleshing them out on scrap paper. Finally, I get down and write.
The reason I’ve never liked writing outlines is because aside from a vague idea, I never know exactly where the story is going to go. And as much as I try to think it out, it has never—never—been what I’ve anticipated. This goes back to the chicken and the egg: does the story never turn out how I thought it would because I don’t put enough time into the outline? Or does it not turn out because what I think up in, say, January, will never hold up against all the new ideas I have in the following eight or nine months. I tend to believe in the latter.
Either way, I believe it is a personal preference. After all, the most important thing is not how you write the story, but that you actually get it done.