Indie Life: Outline AND Go With the Flow

It’s time again (okay, I actually almost missed it) for Indie Life. This is a chance for indie authors to post about indie life, find each other, offer support, encouragement, news, helpful hints….an all around enjoyable time getting to know what it means to be an independent author. We’re posting the second Wednesday of every month. To join us, go here. I’m having fun with these posts, and I hope you are, too! I’m learning new things each month, and meeting new people.

We’ve all heard the “pantser versus plotter” thing played out many times. I’m not going there. I’m over worrying about it. The truth is, everyone’s process is unique. Personally, I can’t write without an outline, because before I set out an outline and play with it for a while, my story is too much of a jumble to take shape well. I just don’t know where to start. But I don’t begrudge pantsers. I actually admire them. I’ve been shocked a couple of times when I heard an author was a pantser, because I couldn’t believe they were able to juggle that much in their heads and put down quality work. I don’t get how that works, but I do know that it’s possible, because I’ve seen it happen.

What I’ve really learned is that each writer needs to follow their gut, their heart, and their plan — balancing and rebalancing those considerations constantly as a story develops.

As I said a minute ago, an outline is required in my writer world. A MUST. Yet I always end up deviating from my original outline. Many times, I reach places that surprise me and fill me with wonder. That’s the magical moment, the place where you lose yourself in the character and world you’ve created and it just blooms, it becomes in ways you don’t quite understand, but that feel right.

What do you do at these moments? For me, my course of action has been different each time this has occurred. And I don’t think that it’s just because I’m learning; it’s because each story is different and your approach can’t be rigid. At least, mine can’t.

I’ll give you a recent example. I’m currently stalled on my primary WIP — the second book in my Foulweather Twins fantasy series. (Giving me great fodder for this Indie Life post, so thanks for that, Muse.) It’s about 40 percent written at this point. About six weeks ago I had a major writing spurt…and in the course of it, I deviated from my outline because it was happening. I could feel the story taking over and it just wanted to spill out of me. About a week after that I reached a point where the direction my character and plot have taken is 1) a complete surprise, and 2) very hard to mesh with my original outline. Now comes the tough part. I have to decide how much of my writing spurt deviation to accept, and how to bring the developments I do keep in line with my outline — er, if that makes any sense. I can go on, can’t I? Hehe.

Now here are some other indie authors you should check out. 🙂

About J.R. Pearse Nelson

J.R. Pearse Nelson is a native Oregonian, residing in the beautiful Portland area. She lives with her husband, two small daughters and the family dog. J.R. is always searching for the magic in our world. She weaves tales rooted in mythology, bringing legend to life in modern-day and fantasy settings. J.R. is the author of the Children of the Sidhe paranormal romance series, the Foulweather Twins fantasy series, and the Water Rites fantasy series. You can connect with J.R. online at her website. Visit