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What’s your style?

Home / Forums / List of Forums / Writers Coffee Shop / What’s your style?

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    Do you complete an outline first, or just wing it?

    Personally, I’d sooner drive a spork through my eye than create an entire outline that would undoubtedly change as I started writing, but I know some people would say the same about jumping in without a plan.

    Here’s my style: 1- create characters and premise 2- start typing and see where my characters lead me!

    What’s yours?



    Ugh. This one is tough for me. I’ve tried both and neither one works in every situation. I need a little of both and what I need changes each book.

    I guess my style is:
    1. create characters and a basic story which may include an ending, but may not
    2. put them in boiling oil and fry until crispy
    3. get stuck because I didn’t outline
    4. outline as far as I can which is usually just the next few scenes
    5. go back to writing cause outlining feels like trying to sneeze a watermelon out of my nose
    6. write until pulling hair out again and color outside the lines of the outline anyway
    7. consider drinking large quantities of alcohol but end up with coffee instead due to the children jumping on my lap
    7. rinse & repeat


    Allison Merritt

    Normally I let the characters guide me, but I’m having some trouble with the second book in this series I’m writing. It’s written, but it didn’t go the way I wanted and I lost or never had some of the element I wanted. I need a do-over and I think I’m going to have to use an outline this time.



    I have to admit I’m more of a winger than an outliner. I usually come up with the idea, develop the characters and then write a lengthy synopsis and then I start writing. Not necessarily the best approach but it works for me.



    I think it’s good that we’re all so different. One of the worst things I did when I started writing, was try to follow someone else’s rules to the T.

    I took a course in novel writing and I wanted to get my money’s worth, but I’m not much of a structure girl so I actually messed up a decent story trying to do it by the leader’s rules.

    I learned a good lesson though. There’s so much great advice out there, but the best method is the one you make yourself because what works for someone won’t work for everyone.

    As soon as I let go of the rules, the words flowed out of my fingers.

    Now I take the advice that works for me and leave what doesn’t. I have enough broken novels! πŸ™



    I have to have some idea of where the story is going to go. Otherwise I end up floundering after the beginning. On the other hand, I can’t set up too much detail in the outline, because I’ll lose interest in the story. I like to have general directions, but I want to discover the scenery along the way.



    I still pretend like I did when I was little. Basically, my mind transports me to being a different character, and it leads me into a plot or something. If the story is good enough, I start working it out. And by working it out, I mean start writing. If it goes somewhere, it goes somewhere.

    And this is probably why I have a hundred unfinished projects.



    I used to just get an idea and run with it, and then fizzle out around 30-50K. I could build a throne out of my unfinished novels.

    Then I started researching writing, and I went to the other end of the spectrum, and plotting a novel out from stem to stern. That novel never got written because I felt like I had already written it.

    Then I went for the middle ground and actually finished a few books.

    Lately, I think it depends on the novel, not me. Some novels require a lot more preplanning than others. Like if I am setting the book on a fantasy planet, then I need to be able to see the world like it was as real as Earth.

    My urban fantasy requires slightly different worldbuilding, because I am usually making up the culture of jinni or sidhe or something.

    Mostly if the idea is going to hold my interest long enough to be written I need the following:

    *a good feel for the main character. I might not know everything about them, but I need to be able to feel like I can walk around in his/her skin.

    *a twist. Some aspect of the story that lights my mind on fire and makes me itch to write about it. It’s usually related to the main character and the magic I am using. My last book, it was exorcism, and the scientists doing experiments on souls in their secret lab a la Frankenstein.

    *an idea of a few scenes that also has me itching to write them.


    Kenra Daniels

    I use a pretty extensive outline. I tried seat-of-the- pants writing when I decided to aim for publication. It took me well over a year to complete my first draft, and it needed massive revision. I used a loose outline to start the next one, and kept refining it until I had something that worked. the first draft took about 4 months, and it needed much less revision. Both are currently shelved, waiting for me to have time to revise them once more.

    For the next, I used a pretty extensive outline, tweaking as I went. First draft took 6 weeks, and it needed minor revisions. I’m now working on the first draft of #4, and it’s coming along quickly.

    So, I’m far more productive with a detailed outline. I know everything about my characters before I start writing. As I’m writing, if the story needs to go a different direction from what I’m writing, I just rewrite my detailed scene list from that point forward.



    I am not a pantser. That way (for me) lies idiotic plotlines and tangents that have nothing to do with anything and writers block when I can’t figure out where to go after my ridiculous idea strands me.

    I start with a vague idea, a plot bunny that attacks me in the shower or while driving. The idea marinates for a while, and different possibilities for plot and characters pop into my head. Then I start creating a rough outline, but I don’t start writing until I know how the book is going to end. Sometimes I write the last scene before I write the beginning of the book — it’s good to know where you’re going.

    Sometimes I create a full-on, very detailed outline for the entire novel. Sometimes I use a looser, bare bones outline with just major plot points.

    I always spend some time getting to know my characters. I usually complete character questionnaires, find photos of random strangers online who have a resemblance to the character in my head…complete dossiers of physicial descriptions, SAT scores, speech tics, etc.

    By the time I sit down to write, my characters are fleshed out, the story is fleshed out, and all I have to do is write it. Simples things up quite a bit and prevents writers block.



    I don’t plan. Just come up with a character, a simple plot (ie, twelve year old boy gets zapped to another universe) then start writing. Eventually, my plot grows so much it looks noting like the origional. I had to write a short story once for a contest which was expected to be two pages long. Then it turned into a brief novella, then a one-hundred page book, then 250 pages, then 450…and now I’ve created a sequel for it. Hooray for no planning XD

    Don’t get me wrong, I get stuck plenty of times along the way. but it’s not because I don’t know where I’m going with the plot. I usually have an idea as to what I want by chapter three. The reasons I get stuck usually have to do with writer’s block, writer’s doubt, my tendancy to procrastinate, and how much I dislike a scene.

    I’m terrible at action scenes lol.



    The plotting is a lot of the fun for me, and I like to know where I’m going, so I like to come up with an approximately scene-by-scene outline. Then I start writing and the plot starts changing based on what I’ve written, and I have to stop a couple of times and rewrite my outline before I finish.



    I’m an uber-organization freak, so you’d think I’d be a story outliner. Nope.

    My characters eat outlines for lunch. They refuse to be bound by my structured plans. LOL



    For me, I start out as a panster. I have a general idea or theme for a story and then start to think about whose story it would be. I let the idea stew for a little while and think about who the characters are and as I’m doing that, scenes start to pop into my head and I get a loose idea of a plot. Then I start writing and see where these people take me. A lot of times I’m surprised by what they say and do and it turns a scene on its head. And i say “No! I didn’t want to go there!” But characters with depth of personality should take you where they need to go.

    I feel like if i outline or plan too much, it looses it’s spontaneity. The outline, to me, is like the story is already written and I don’t want to write it anymore. That said, as long as I have a goal scene to get to, how I get there is the mystery.



    Here’s mine:

    – Come up with the concept first and foremost.
    – Under story concept: characters, then story and setting.
    – Best way is to write it as soon as the inspiration strikes, because then I can just plow straight into character trajectories and plot resolutions. Otherwise, an outline will do in a pinch… and even then, it’s still an outline, because the novel does end up writing itself anyway!
    – I never write things in order. Sometimes I’ll have a scene ready that doesn’t fit in with the rest of the story’s timeline, so I’ll write that before I go into everything else, and pick it up when it’s ready. (Exhibit A: most of the sex scenes in my current WiP, which I wrote in advance of the previous events!)
    – Sometimes, when I’m really stuck, I’ll start researching the setting – like which neighborhood are they most likely to live in, or which Mexican restaurant would be the best place for them to stage their big confrontation scene, or which school district are they most likely to send their kids. I’ve gone so far as to look up actual real-estate listings for a house that looks like something my MMC would own – yikes!
    – Sometimes, when I’m really really stuck, I would look up graphic pegs for my characters. It could be as simple as shoes and outfits for my MCs, or it could be as complicated as combing IMDb for actors and actresses most likely to play them in the movie version. (Yes, I’m that crazy :D)
    – And in any case, if I’m stuck AND tired, I just turn off the laptop, go to sleep, and pick it up again when I’m ready. πŸ™‚

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