How to Write by the Seat of Your Pants: Outline or No?
by: Karolyn James
I love the term ‘write by the seat of your pants.’ I think as writers we all ‘write by the seat of our pants.’ That means we go into a manuscript tell a story. We may have characters, names, descriptions, setting, and a good plot, but when we sit down to write we are opening ourselves to the story and the story is opening itself to us. That means the story can move the way it wants to.
I always try to write with an outline of some sorts. For some books it can be a piece of notebook paper with some notes on. For other projects, it can be a full outline that consists of multiple pages. I have a Post-it note app on my iPad where I will take notes and posting on my screen, and sometimes I just work from that. There are times, when in fact, I will just sit down and write with nothing more than a concept. When I started the Brothers of Rock series I did so with just the band name and an idea of a beautiful woman meeting a rock star and the woman not knowing the guy was a rockstar. To go from there with the series I needed a good outline. Each book in the Brothers of Rock series can be read as a standalone but there are pieces that move throughout the five books that feature Chasing Cross. That’s where my outline came in handy.
Some authors like to write with a very detailed outline that clearly indicates each chapter, the word count, and a brief sentence about that chapter. There is no right or wrong answer in this, it’s the writer’s personal preference. I don’t like outlines that go too much into detail, because I feel it may take away from allowing the story to flow organically. When we write I think it’s important to give the story chance to grow its own set of legs and kind of do what it wants. Our job is to keep it on course and keep the plot flowing, but there are plenty of times when a story will present itself with more opportunities.
When I sit down to map out a new project I like to go basic. I start with a notebook and a pencil. Yes, I have to have a pencil… It’s just a quirk of mine. I usually begin with writing the characters names and something about them to try and bring them to life. Sometimes I’ll take two or three pages of notes and have something to run with, other times I’ll have a scene and just build from the scene. There have been times where I will envision say the first quarter of the book and just attack it from there and when I’m done with that then I’m able to look at where the book is headed and where it needs to go.
There is no right or wrong way to outline the book, if the author chooses to outline a book at all. The most important thing to remember is that we are creating the story but the story also needs an opportunity to create itself.
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Genre – Romance
Rating – PG13
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