I write by the seat of my pants. There. I admit it. And boy does it feel good to get that off of my chest.
I've never been able to write outlines. When I was in college, I did an honors project for my first English Comp class. It was a short story that my professor and I spent hours working on. She had me do outlines and character sketches and proposals. Then, a couple of days before the story was due, I was listening to a song called "Benjamin" by Veruca Salt. A story popped into my head. I put that song on repeat and stayed up all night writing a story. It had zip to do with the outlining and character sketching I did with my professor. She was understandably peeved that all our hard work had gone out the window, but I couldn't help myself. And in the end, my professor loved the story and gave me the honor credit.
When I picked my writing back up, I pantsed my way through one really bad story. Then, for my next story, I tried to do character charts and outlines. I hit some major road blocks (my three main characters had absolutely NO chemistry). My next book, a 140k word YA Norse epic, was pantsed. And finally there was Deathday Letter. I wrote the first chapter, and I knew what the last chapter would look like, but all the middle stuff was a mystery to me.
Since then, I've been struggling with being the kind of person who outlines. People in publishing like outlines. They like to see where you're going before you go there. Usually so they can help you get there better. But I've always forged my own paths, often to disastrous consequences. I like to know what my destination is, but I hate being told how to get there. Just ask my parents. It's not that I hate advice or think people are wrong, it's just that I have this pathological need to do things for myself. Because for me it's about the journey. If I'm driving from Florida to Colorado, and you give me a map with a route, and pictures of what I'll see on the route, then what's the fun of driving? That's how I feel about outlines.
It makes for a pretty inefficient writing process. If the story is flawed, I may not find out until I'm 3/4 of the way in. Without GPS to guide me, I may hit a roadblock and have to backtrack a long, long way. But then again, without the mystery, the adventure of discovery, I may not want to go at all.
That mystery is how I sustain my enthusiasm for a book for the weeks or months it takes to write. I know that it means I'll have a lot of work to do when that messy first draft is done, but it's what works.
So what works for you all? Are you pantsers? Or outliners? If you're an outliner, what is it that drives you? How do you keep the enthusiasm for writing a project when you already know what's going to happen?
I'm Shaun Hutchinson, and I'm a pantser.