TO PANT OR TO OUTLINE
A NEW WRITER’S CHOICE
All writers who read about writing are well aware of the raging discussions about ‘TO OUTLINE OR NOT TO OUTLINE’. There are famous authors, Stephen King comes to mind, who swear by winging it without an outline. These Pantsers claim the best way to write a story, long or short, is by just writing into the dark so to speak. The justification is that not knowing what turn the story takes makes for a great adventure. Then there are equally famous authors who like to have everything neatly laid out. The justification is that having an outline makes for better stories. There are also those who are in-between — they make outlines which are fluid. The framework is there but the author has the liberty to wander hither and thither if she so desires. All three types write great stories. But what is best for a new author?
As an estimate 50% of all writers are those who are just thinking about writing. Out of the rest maybe 45% are part-time writers. 4% are published writers. Only 1% are established writers. So the odds are stacked against us. Who cares. Coming back to our main discussion the 45% are those who have other cares in life — like putting food on the table, meeting the needs of the spouse, bringing up the kids. These tasks are designed to occupy the mind completely. A story is like making a baby. Planting the seed is the easiest part and maybe the only enjoyable part. Then the hard work of forming the baby, undergoing hardships, sacrifices etc starts. Then the baby has to be made into a fully grown person with her own personality.
Stories start with an idea. Great. The writer knows she has a blockbuster. So she starts writing. 500–1000 words later the idea is over and done with. But a story requires 7000–10000 words if short or a mind numbing 120000- 200000 words if long. How can you do it? Stephen King probably has nothing else to do except write but new writers don’t have that luxury. They may write a few hundred words everyday at any convenient time. But after a hard day’s work the previous day’s words are not readily recallable, leave alone words written 4 days or 10 days back. So one has to read back from the beginning. Wasting an already limited time available.
Writing a story is like knitting a multi-coloured sweater. Unless all the designs match and loose ends are taken care of the sweater will result in an ugly product which no one will wear. All the character arcs have to be complemented, the questions raised in the beginning answered at the end and all conflicts resolved. If loose ends are not tied up at the end the story will have few admirers. For a new writer, especially those who squeeze in writing in between the chores of life the only way you will ever finish a book is to go the OUTLINING way.
OUTLINING in WORD or a similar text processor is possible but quite tedious. Moving the chapters around or referencing details of the characters is a major hurdle in WORD. The better options are YWRITER7 or SCRIVENER. Some other similar software can also be used. The need is 2 fold: The manipulation of blocks of text (like scenes or chapters) is easy. 2. Reference to the characters/ timelines/ events should be easy.
Step1: Write out your idea in 1–2 pages. What’s the THEME: Revenge, Romance, Getting / Losing Wealth., Getting / losing Fame / Winning / Losing / Conquering etc ?
Beginning — Ending. Obstacles. Resolutions.
Step 2: Break up the story in chapters — for now in chronological order. Decide the length of the story / Novel . Decide the number of chapters. Then decide the number of words in the chapter.
Step 3. Make a commitment of finishing one chapter at a time. It the length of each chapter is too large for the daily available time then divide the chapter into A and B.
Step 4. Finish the first draft without much Editing. Some find it easier to edit ONLY the previous day’s work for spelling or obvious grammatical mistakes. Cutting / Adding / Shaping is for the 2nd Editing only after the draft is over.
Step 5: Copy the whole draft and hear it on a Word to Speech software. Stop frequently and make notes for a) Spelling mistakes. b) Awkward construction of sentences. c) Boring parts. d) Weak characters e)confusing storyline. f) Resolution of all issues.
Step 6: Make all the changes. Repeat the Step5 till satisfied. Proceed for Publishing.
ALL THE BEST.