Monday, August 22, 2011

Venturing Off the Path

(warning: bad writer metaphor ahead)

I have to admit to liking to stick to the path when we're hiking. My husband is into adventure and has no problem wandering off into the brush. Or finding a side trail and deciding to take it to see where it leads.

I follow along, grumbling to myself. If we're bushwacking, my heart will be beating and I will squeal if anything I can't identify brushes my leg. So why do I follow him if it's so out of my character and not entirely enjoyable?

Because sometimes you find this...

If I had refused to venture off the first path, I would have missed out on that! It's beautiful and mystical and wow!

I go through the same struggle with my writing. I'm such a detailed person. I love lists. Detailed lists. For example, to go to the two grocery stores that I had to run to today, I made lists...writing things down as I went through my list of lunches and dinners this week. Then I went back through those and organized them by aisle. Starting from the right with my cough drops (a really weird addiction) and finishing in the freezer section. Detailed. Organized. Awesomeness.

When I write, I can tend toward the anal as well. I'm a plotter. I love my outlines. Detailed. Outlines. But I'm learning to be more flexible. I spend time on that detailed outline, but sometimes something happens when I'm doing the actual book writing...and GASP! it wasn't in that outline. Anywhere. An arrow will come flying at my antagonist that wasn't expected. She's suddenly on the run and I've got a whole new threat. I've learned to venture off that path and into the forest. Off that outline and into the pages, the story.

I have a confession to's exhilirating! Not having the answers right there with me used to completely throw me off. I wouldn't allow it. Now, I do! And it's so much fun! I'm starting to get what you pantsers are all about. I'm LIKING it! Look out now!

What about you - do you plot or pants? Do you stick to the path or wander off it and see what you can find?


  1. I like my outlines and details as well. (Although I struggle to get those details into the actual story.) And I don't wander off trails - I remember Deliverance!
    Good to hear from you.

  2. I'm a mixter. Seriously! I like to have a rough outline of where I'm headed, beginning, crisis/climax, end; and I need to know my characters well, but then I just set them off and see what happens. It's fun!

    And that stream is beautiful~

    good luck! <3

  3. My outlines are pretty vague and horrible, generally written on cocktail napkins or post-its. I'm using a writing program now that has really allowed me to be able to expand on outlining. I'm bad about following a trail--I like to see what no one else has.

  4. I'm sort of both. I have an outline that's more or less the basic plot of the entire novel so at least I know kind of where I'm going and where I'm supposed to end up.

    But as I write, I tend to get off the beaten path. Things come organically and if it's not in the outline, it was meant to be there anyway.

  5. It's fun being a panster... until you get to the second draft and go, "WTF was I trying to do here?" A healthy mix of both is good. For the next book, I definitely want to have an outline - so that I'll have something to deviate from!

    Love your pictures.

  6. I always start with a detailed outline, but after I get it and sometimes most of a first draft completed, I go where the characters take me. New situations, twists and turns, and assorted developments always come up once I have the foundation of the story set. I think that's one reason why I enjoy revising more than writing the first draft.