I’m a Panster, (or is it Pantster?) which means that my characters tell me their story, not the other way around. It’s unconventional, from what I’ve been told, but it works for me. Outlines are painful, arduous, and too confining for me.
My first novel, I had no idea what I was doing. I just wrote it: no outline. I was naïve, and just had a bunch of notes for a story that I’d been sitting on for 20 years (no kidding…20 years), and finally had the time and determination to write it down. It felt great to complete it! Even if nobody else read it, at least I finished it.
While writing my second novel, I happened across an article in a writer’s magazine that showed step-by-step how to outline a novel. So, I followed their example, and I plotted, and outlined, and then tried to write according to that outline.
I hated it! It felt as if I was writing in a foreign language and trying to force feed the words to fit the outline. I scrapped the outline and wrote the book my own naïve way. And, again, I finished it.
Several novels later, and I’m in the midst of querying. While I sift through rejection letters and wait for the golden ticket, I’ve started another novel.
I struggled to get this one going on the right track, until I realized I was over-thinking. So I tried something different, but not on purpose.
One night, as I was trying to fall asleep, I was writing the query in my head. But that’s crazy! I was only 4,000 words into the story. I shouldn’t even be thinking about a query, right?
But I couldn’t get it out of my head. Maybe it was because I had been querying for that other novel that my brain kept thinking in that direction. So instead, I wrote what would be on the back of the book jacket, or part of the query. It worked! It helped me focus where the story was going, but without the constraints of an outline. It brought my novel to back to life for me, and made it more compelling.
Since then, I’ve updated it several times and keep adding to it. I guess you could call it an outline, but it’s more entertaining than that. I see an outline as a dry, step-by-step summary of what’s coming. #panstertroubles The back of the book jacket is the ad that causes the reader to buy the book. And isn’t that what we, as writers, are trying to do? Get people to buy our books?
Writing the book jacket keeps me focused on the goal of what I want my story to tell, and who I want my story to reach.
I don’t know if it will work, but it’s kind of fun. The way I look at it is whatever gets you focused and writing is best for you: whether it be an outline, scribble in a notebook, or a query. That’s just my two cents. Happy writing!