I had a scene for a novel rattling around in my head for a while and finally wrote it down about a year ago. I’d tweak it off and on but never really did anything else with it. I just knew it should be part of a story, but I wasn’t sure where to go with it next. Then I wrote two scenes for two other novels but let them languish, too. I finally wrote a character sketch for my protagonist for one of the novels, and then I “stole” her for one of the other novels instead. Now, I’m stuck wondering what to do next.
I’ve been reading a lot about how to write a novel. I’ve read about folks who plan their novels before they write and about folks who are pansters–they write by the seat of their pants. I think I might be a little of both. In my life, I’m a planner. Then I toss out the plan, or at least leave myself open to detours.
I’ve read about the necessity of outlining our stories and having our character sketches done before we begin the actual story writing. Maybe this is why I’m stuck–I don’t know where to go next with any of the three novels because I don’t have a plan, an outline.
I’ve done general outlines for research papers and reports, but how can I do an outline for my story if I don’t know how the story will unfold and who the characters are? I ultimately decided I should write an outline, so I Googled “how to write an outline for a novel.”
A post by the NY Book Editors titled “Planning to Outline Your Novel? Don’t” caught my eye. The author suggests that outlining our stories and knowing where they’re going ahead of time can hinder our creativity. Instead–“Don’t plan. Just write.” Discover the story as you write it. Don’t decide ahead of time what you want your readers to get out of your story. Plus, it’s ok to jump around–write the middle first, etc. If having an outline makes you more comfortable, then that’s ok, too, but maybe next time just “start writing.”
I’ve read about some authors who’ve said their stories “write themselves.” Or that their characters “took over” the story. I think I worry so much about “doing it right” that I don’t do anything at all.
I’ve joined Camp NaNoWriMo for the month of July to jump start one of my novels. I’m torn between writing some sort of loose plan/outline and just writing to see where my story takes me. I’ll let you know how it goes.
What about you–do you outline your stories and fill out character sketches before you write or are you a panster or a little of both?