Monday, 11 July 2011

Can Anyone Hear Me?

I’ve been down here for a while now, at the bottom of this deep, dark well. Fumbling around, shouting and screaming without anyone hearing my cries. Okay, you’re wondering if I’ve gone mad, or perhaps I’m writing an opening very badly.

Wrong on both counts, I’m talking about being a ‘Panster’. A what - you say? A panster, someone, who writes by the seat of their pants, without any planning or forethought of where they are going, I imagine some of you know exactly what I’m referring to here.

It’s served me well in the past. After all, there is nothing more exciting than going on a journey of discovery with your characters, is there? Except, I seem to have fallen down a well. I’ve lost my way, the plot is becoming clumsy, and some characters are doing their own thing, which I might not have minded in a different story. However, in this novel, where it’s hard enough to hold lots of information in my head as it is, I really don’t want secondary characters taking over the show. I might let them have their own novel later.

The solution, because there has to be one, doesn’t there? I mean I need to get out of this well, and get back to civilization. Which in my case, is regularly writing and getting the first draft completed. So the solution which has been burning at the back of my brain while I’ve been shuffling around in the dark, is to make an outline.

There, I’ve said it now, that dirty word us pansters hate to hear. Outline. You know what I’m talking about don’t you? Some of you are brilliant at it, you make a plan. A who, what, where, when and why, plan. And then off you go and write it all out. So, how am I going to get out of the well?

Well, I just did. I cried, and I shouted, before I realized there was someone already at the top, who threw me down a rope, it was another writer. In fact, several were there. They pulled me up, tugging on the rope; they hauled me over the side. Offering advice on how to get out of this mess.

I’m amazed at how generous you’ve all been. I opened my mouth, on Twitter, and hollered. You heard and I learnt I wasn’t alone. Lots of you admitted you’ve come up against the same issues and feelings of frustration.

I visited your blogs for advice, and you took the time to reply to me. Tweets passed back and forth, and I spoke with a buddy and he listened.

 Thank you all.

And if anyone else out there can tell me how they outline – all ideas are most welcome. So come on, how do you do it then?   


  1. We feel your pain - being stuck at the bottom of the well is no fun. Glad you found a way to climb out.

  2. Grat article. Helpful and informative. Love the picture! Keith

  3. Hi Maria, Me, I plan my novel out by write a map of sorts. I map out each chapter. This will of course change as you start writing the book, but it gives you some idea of where you are going and what is going on in your book.

    In each chapter you need a beginning, a middle and a end. In my mapping I list who is in the chapter, what is going on, questions that the reader will need answered, clues (I write dark mysteries) objects(So you don't land up with things that you've forgotten about that the reader will remember and wonder what happen to so& so mentioned in Chpt 4 etc.)

    I know this sound like a lot of writing before you started, but it does help you to remember things without reading you whole novel just to find out where and when you last mentioned someone or something. As you write your book you'll start added more to your map.

    I find when I read back through my mapping it sparkles new ideas too.

    I hope this is of some help.

  4. Jarmara, I'm going to try this, also because I am 55k into the novel, I've been advised to go back and write a front note for each chapter too. It all makes good sense. Thank you.

    Keith, Glad you liked it!

    Ruth, Good to see some light again. :)

  5. Interesting blog Maria. I'm glad you managed to climb out of the well. I think it would be very difficult to keep control of your characters if you give them free reign - but then that's what you're good at.

  6. Hi Pete, Thanks for dropping in, I'm making small steps forward with the novel again now.

    Hope your writing is going well?

  7. Maria,

    I don't think there's anything wrong with "pantsing" it -- I think we all do it to a certain degree, and when it happens perfectly, it's a magical and exciting experience!

    As for outlining, most of what I do is think. I come up with a few basic ideas for a novel, and then I iron out the protagonist, the antagonist, and all of their drives and desires. Then I begin writing. When something doesn't feel right, doesn't come out on the page the way I want it, I take a step back for a few days and start writing out plans by hand. I start with giving myself general character summaries. I think about the characters and the plot constantly, and (usually when I'm driving) something clicks in my head.

    I'm on the same page with Jarmara -- prewriting helps me write a draft better, tighter, and with more precision. The more preplanning you do, the more pantsing you're liable to perform in the process! :)

    I'm excited to interact with you during the course of the Campaign! Good luck with your writing!

  8. Rance - Thanks for stopping by, your input is very welcome. I'm beginning to see the light at last, and have done quite a bit on my novel since this post.

    Not words on the page - but chapter summaries. Next stage is your suggestion, I'm about to flesh out my characters.

    Outlining is difficult for me, but I've gone back and done just that, almost ready to get back to the keyboard. :)

    Thank you

  9. Hey, Maria--I'm a little late in finding you for this one.

    I definitely don't outline--bore me some more!

    I'm not strictly a panster, because I do plan my scenes-to-come. I keep an on-going note document, and also i have notebooks to jot things down. I have a binder with all the information on each important character--spending a whole page or more on the main ones.

    I will, as I get into the middle portion, begin writing note cards out with each scene I think has to come next. That way I have a physical thing to look at.

    Thing is my ideas come flying at me, as well as scenes. Thus I write everything down, or I record them (middle of the night is a bunch of fun going into the bathroom and talking to myself!)

    Anyway, I like your blog too. I'm just reading through some of your past posts. This is my first sort of on-line thing too. I'm not sure what it will involve, or if I'll even have time for some of it, but I do like getting to know more people who write things I do.

    Thanks for stopping by Muse :D


I really appreciate you taking the time to leave me a comment, and I try to reply to every one. Many thanks!

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