I saw a meme yesterday that read, “Detailed outlines are a powerful defense against multiple plotlines.” The caption was, “Because your pantsed manuscript must be rewritten from the ground up. This is the way.”
Now, I’m not throwing shade or hate at anyone. The person who posted this is an editor and likely gets tons of manuscripts that need to be rewritten from the ground up… but so what? Also, who doesn’t love multiple plotlines? Um, soap operas, anyone? Single-plot books are so boooorrinngg…
Here’s the thing, I don’t outline. At least, I don’t outline in the traditional sense of breaking down each chapter with specific points. I might draft a half or single-page bullet list of things I need to include, but gosh when I try to fully outline, my brain glitches.
Let’s talk about that. Why does my brain glitch? A writer friend once told me about discovery writers. It’s more than a preference, but how our brains actually function. For me, writing an outline removes the fun of “discovering” the world or story as it unfolds and inhibits me. In my mind, I have already told the story, so writing chapter by chapter becomes a chore, something that leads to burnout and stress. Why would I want to write the same story twice?
And the same writer friend has been encouraging me for years to just follow my process, trust the way my brain works and lean into it. The truth is, pantsers get such a bad wrap because we “do it wrong.”
But can you really do creativity wrong? Does this mean I might have some foundation to repair when I complete my book? Of course, but so do planners. However, if I must say so myself, I think my instinct for writing MY way has been honed enough that my first drafts are pretty darn good. I can’t think of the last time I had to make major structural changes to a first draft… honest!
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, you do you when it comes to your writing process (this is not carte blanche for you to do you in every aspect of life… just writing, peeps) and pants away if you need to. I find the best twists and turns, the most emotional points, and the deepest plot when I let my creativity guide me instead of an outline.
If you are a pantser, tell me about your process in the comments! If you are a planner… I mean, you could tell me about your process if you want… if you CAN without an outline first. I kid, I kid—I actually admire people who can see their whole story at once because that’s cool. It just doesn’t work for me.