Sometimes I get hung up on semantics. “Plotting versus pantsing” is a popular topic of discussion among writers. Writing by the seat of my pants got me through my first two novels, and with a germ of an idea in mind it’s how I write most of my articles. During revisions of my second novel I had an idea for a third one and quickly wrote my way through its first chapter. Then I decided to give outlining a try.
It’s not working. Not only is it not working, it’s dampening my enthusiasm for the story.
Here’s where semantics come into play. My outline is attempting to touch on all the basic plot points that will take the story from beginning to end. So am I outlining or plotting? I don’t really know.
Whatever it’s called, I’ve drifted back to my earlier revisions and left the new idea to gather dust in the closet. That’s not a bad thing, of course. Novel #2 really needed a major overhaul so I’m glad to be able to focus on it without the distraction of #3. But there’s a still-earlier sort-of memoir that’s beckoning for attention now, too. I’m beginning to see signs of avoidance here and suspect it’s all because of this dratted outline-plotting thing.
Relating it to painting offers a slightly different perspective. With a scene in mind I begin by laying out a basic composition, but I don’t choose all the colours before I put brush to canvas. If I did, it would seem too much like a paint-by-number effort. I know the end result would lack the emotional element I desire and, knowing that, I would put the brush back down.
How would you define outlining versus plotting? In your writing have you found a balance between flying blind and working with a view in mind?