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I've experimented with both outlining and pantsing stories and I find that neither works very well most of the time. Once I sketch down an outline or do any preliminary worldbuilding for a story, I end up without the energy to actually write the damn story itself. In addition, outlines tend to feel constricting. On the other hand, while I have successfully pantsed a few short stories in the past, most of the time I either write myself into a corner or otherwise don't know how to continue the story. Therefore, I'm in desperate need of a method that could work for me.
What exactly do you mean by pantsing? Because I have this image of a book having it's pants pulled down around its ankles.
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I thought everyone in the writing community knew what that term meant: write as you go.
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Because I have this image of a book having it's pants pulled down around its ankles.*
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You mean writing by the seat of your pants? I've never heard it called 'pantsing' before. In any case, I'm better at this 'pantsing'. I've usually got my head full of university-related stuff during the day, so I've started pantsing whenever I've got free time. If I'm lucky, I can usually get ten or even fifteen minutes of pantsing in before each lecture, and on occasion I'll be able to pants for a bit on a particularly long bus trip.
I have no beard. I have no beard, and I must scream.
Personally, I just come up with a general start and end point, then write as I go to get from point A to point B. I've had the problem you mentioned about writing yourself into a corner... But fixing that is as simple as taking a break, asking people around you for advice, or even thinking aloud. Actually, I got out of most cases like that by thinking aloud about the issue on MSN with one of my friends.
I find that I have several scenes in my head that I know I want to happen, and I write as if I'm trying to connect the dots. Sometimes that requires some hard thinking about what happens when (for example, my current project has a three-day pattern to it that I have to stick to) and a strict outline. Sometimes it doesn't.
Be not afraid...
I think you should at least have some idea where you're going, otherwise you're going to be writing a lot of stuff that doesn't end up having any purpose.
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I'm curious as to how you outline. For me, outlining and worldbuilding doesn't drain me of the energy to write, but gives me the energy to write. Of course, I have a very loose style of outlining, just jotting down a few major points that I want to hit on a piece of scratch paper. But having that physical skeleton of a scene or story in front of me feels me with enthusiasm as I can't wait to flesh it out into a complete story. As for being constricting, it hardly is at all, for me anyway. The outline only tells me what I wanted to write down anyway, but it helps me to see in which direction I need the story to go and what essential plot points I need to hit. It would be a shame to forget to mention the Chekhov's Gun I need to resolve the main plot just because I want to get to the main plot quicker. It also helps to think of the outline as just a general guideline. There is no reason that you have to stay accurate to the outline if you feel the inspiration to do something different while writing, which has happened to me several times. I would suggest a very loose style of outlining combined with the seat of the pants writing. (Never heard it referred to as pantsing before, but I eventually figured out what you were referring to.) For me, I just outline a little, then write a little, then outline then write. I don't spend a whole lot of time outlining, but use it as a guide to help me hit the points that I want to hit, but while writing, I just let the story takes me where it wants to go. Should the story stray from the outline, I adjust the outline, then continue writing.
The time is now,
I use a Loni Jay/Wacky Meets Practical mix. Plan the major scenes like a sort of road journey "I'll head to town A, then B then C..." with an idea of what each one is about. Then I 'pants' those scenes. Its like being a director of an Improv scrip - "HarpoDoesSomethingFunny" if you will. I've learnt some interesting stuff about my characters that they told me in those scenes - I was just about to write a paragraph and a character said "I almost had 'x' committed to a psychiatric hospital". I shouted at him "You can't just spring this stuff on me - you have to tell me in advance!"
edited 23rd Mar '12 4:22:54 PM by LastHussar
Do the job in front of you.
I always make an outline, and then I'll usually come up with new ideas as I write, thus having both at the same time.
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Total posts: 121