Saturday, October 19, 2013


NaNoWriMo is just around the corner and I’m trying not to repeat mistakes made in 2012. 

Last year was my first time with it and I failed miserably. I would write, write, write like mad for three days then run out of story. A few days later I would find it and go great guns until it ran out of steam again. This went on all month. (A year later and I’m still having the same problem with it.)

Writers generally fall into two camps: outliners and non-outliners, the “plotters” or the “pantsers” - those writing by the seat of their pants. I’ve been a pantser all along. With the fits this piece has given, perhaps it’s time look at outlining.

The writing guru I have been interested in lately is KM Weiland. In addition to craft how-to books, she has a great site appropriately titled helping writers become authors

Weiland extols the virtues of outlining. An argument non-outliners use is it stifles creativity, preventing a story from evolving as they write. I know how they feel. I love when the story I’m working on assumes the lead and takes off in directions I hadn’t planned. Weiland argues “a good outline should be the a spur for creativity, not a stumbling block. The author is the master of the outline, not its slave.” She says outlines can encourage creativity, daring experimentation, and focused inspiration. 

Weiland notes the advantages of outlining. Outlines:
-ensure balance and cohesion
-prevent dead-end ideas
-provides foreshadowing -  how can an author foreshadow an event of which she has no idea?
-smooth the pacing
-indicate preferable POV -  allows the author to see which characters’ POV best advances part of the story
-maintain consistent character voice - writing without an outline, the author discovers the character’s voice along with the readers. We should know the voice before we begin.
-offer motivation and assurance - outlines give the assurance that we do indeed have a story to be crafted.

A problem with outlining is the time involved. Weiland averages three months to properly put an outline together. She says she gains it back with less rewrites and time not wasted on aimless rambling down dead end streets. Been there, written like that.

Three months? NaNoWriMo starts in two weeks.

(This article also posted at

1 comment:

Scott said...

I don't really outline, but I write a summary of my plot ideas with a list of things I think will happen. Then I more or less pants it using that plan as a guide. It never quite follows the plan exactly, and sometimes my attempts to put in ideas that were cool when I planned just don't work once the story starts taking off.