Tag Archives: planning

Impromptu vs. Outlining

What kind of writer are you? Do you write going from scene to scene, making it up as you go and not really knowing what happens next? Or are you the type of writer who plans everything out?

I like to call my style of writing “impromptu”. I don’t know how legit of a name that is, but it is what I like to use. Basically, I dive into all my stories knowing very little about where they are going. Yes, I have images and scenes in my head I want to implement into the story, but oftentimes they are the epic scenes of the climax, near the end of the story.

For example, most people are familiar with the story The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien. If you know the storyline, imagine sitting down to begin those books with only a few things decided. You have developed the idea of The One Ring, the Dark Lord, and your world in general. You have hobbits, dwarves, elves, orcs, men, and have even cooked up some of Middles Earth’s history in your mind. Knowing you want to start the book in the Shire with one of your main characters, Frodo, you sit down and begin writing. You might have epic mental images of a fight underground with a massive beast of fire (The Mines of Moria, The Balrog), and of a vast swamp full of dead people (The Dead Marshes), but you really have no guidelines or plan. It’s all just scenes with no names. You have no idea how you are going to get there.

As you write, you create new and unexpected characters and throw them into the fray. Your imagination is the limit as you invent your story. It goes where it wills and in retrospect you realize you unconciously took one road out of hundreds. The story, as you write it, could go this way or that way, and ultimately you choose a path and dozens more paths open up. The story grows and grows. Slowly, everything starts falling into place and the skeleton begins to fill out, forming a solid body of work. Before your eyes lays an evolution of literature that had no plan, no sense of direction until it finally evolved to encompass all those grand images you began with.

I start my stories with just a few images and scenes to inspire me. The hard part is creating the scenes in-between that connect the dots and to do it in a way that makes sense. However, impromptu writing is a sure recipe for breeding writer’s block. When you make up everything as you go you will find that some days you just don’t know how to direct your story. Your characters begin to scream back at you “this is stupid! Turn us around and start over!”

What do you think? How do you approach stories? Which style do you think is best? Personally, I love the evolution of impromptu writing but know an outlined story is worth the time it takes to make one. Maybe someday I will actually outline a story before I write it. For now, the story I am editing continues to evolve, just as it has since the first day.

9 Comments

Filed under Thoughts on Writing, What I am Doing