Chapter eleven of Gerke’s book, The Irresistible Novel, is a little different than the previous ten. Up to this point each chapter has focused on a principle of writing (like POV, setting, characters, etc.) but chapter eleven is centered more on the discipline of writing. The main statement of debate being, “You must always outline your novel, or it will be doomed.” (Gerke 78)
As always, the statement above has no absolute answer. Each writer has their own style, discipline, and preference. In Gerke’s book he is aiming at helping writers to find their voice by causing them to evaluate important arguments in the art of writing. When it comes to outlining there are those wh0 do (plotters) and those who do not (pantsers.)
A plotter begins the writing process by first planning out major plot points. They may have a detailed outline completed before they ever start page one. They may also choose to outline in a less specific manner using working outlines that change throughout the writing process. A benefit to being a plotter is that the writer has a clear direction to their writing which helps them stay focused throughout the construction of their novel. A drawback to being a plotter is that some writers feel confined to their outline so much that it stifles their creativity. Those who over plan often feel that by the time they sit down to write their book that they have already done so. Many a book has died due to over planning and lack of interest.
A pantser sits down to write page one with no prior outline. Those who prefer this method enjoy following the characters and letting the characters rather than the plot take the lead as they write. They sit down to craft their novel with little to no planning, but the freedom of creativity guides them through the pages. A benefit to being a pantser is that the story truly speaks for itself and there is no need to feel suffocated by plot points drawn up on a map or word document. A drawback to being a pantser is that oftentimes starting a story without a clear direction can make such action obvious to your readers as they sense that the characters are just meandering through the plot.
My Current Project…
I’m sure this is no shocker, but when I sat down to write my first book I had a plan.
I had written a short story that I had fallen in love with. I had a main character, a problem, and somewhat of a solution. I read the short story to my husband and he enjoyed it as well. And from there I decided to expand the tale into novel form. (Little did I know just how long of a process that would be!)
I drafted a working outline on Google Docs. I knew fairly early in the process that I wanted my book to have alternating POV so I planned out the number and organization of chapters accordingly. I didn’t go too in depth because I wanted the book to write itself as much as possible. My first outline was half a page. It included major plot points for each chapter and highlighted the climax and possible resolutions.
The good thing about this being a working outline was that I never felt tied to what I had planned. Countless times throughout the process I added and subtracted from that original plan. I even got halfway through and decided I wanted another character to be more important than I had allowed them to be. All it took was about five minutes reworking the outline to give myself permission to go more in depth with that character.
I liked this process because it kept me focused on the direction of my story. It also kept me from forgetting to tie up loose ends. I was able to embrace creative liberties each time I sat down to write.
I know outlining isn’t for everybody, but if you are anything like me then it will save your sanity and possibly your story if you create at least a bare minimum plan.