Finding my writing groove has been hard. I’m what’s known as a pantser. I write by the seat of my pants. No outline. That’s how I’ve always done it, and enjoy doing it.
The thing is that I was writing for me and a few friends; little stories, usually around 20,000 words, sometimes much shorter. There were no subplots. There weren’t a lot of characters. Maybe five at the most that weren’t just extras or bit players, and only one was my POV character.
Writing a novel is different, and I realized that soon after I started. I’m going to need subplots. I’m going to have a larger word count, so I will need more action and character growth. All of this, somehow, has to come from my brain.
I’ve been digging into studying the craft far more than I ever did before. I know now that I am ready to take this task seriously, but I still struggle.
I struggle with structure more than anything. Finding my main character (I just figured that out tonight), picking a historical timeframe to model my fantasy world after, and making the story flow as my thoughts all come together. I’ve realized that I can’t do this as a pantser. Not completely. Not this first novel. The problem for me is that I know I’m not an outliner. I want to write, not outline. I want the story to flow naturally as I continue to learn my characters and watch them grow. I don’t want to be tied to an outline.
The key for me is to find the happy medium. After hearing the processes and methods of several published authors, I’ve learned that the happy medium does exist. That’s where I am now in my process. I’m doing basic outlining while I create characters and build my world. This means coming up with the basic structure and a few key incidents or problems that the characters will face. This gives me the structure to work out any foreseeable issues with the plot, yet gives me the freedom to make changes. This is important, because I’ve already changed aspects of the story (both large and small) and I don’t even have much written. I just keep tweaking it in my head as things come to me.
I have a long way to go. I have lots of research to do, and lots of world building. I’ve chosen a story that will be daunting for my first novel, but it’s the story I want to tell. I’ve decided not to write another word until I’ve done my research and done my basic outlining/plotting process.
Are you a writer? Are you a pantser or an outliner? What makes it work for you? Leave a message in the comments.