6 Secrets of Writing a Novel Without an Outline

6 Secrets of Writing a Novel Without an Outline

I have a confession to make.

When I was in school and a teacher would assign us to write an outline for a story, I’d finish the story first, then go back and write the outline so I’d have something to turn in. Even as a teenager I thought outlining was counterintuitive to the writing process.

—Steven James

But outlining is still taught as if it’s “the right way” to shape a story. I have a master’s degree in storytelling and I can’t think of a single time I’ve received instruction on writing a story without an outline. You’ll hear the importance of plotting out your story trumpeted at writing conferences nationwide, and if you don’t follow those formulas you’ll be labeled an SOPer (that is, a “seat-of-the-pantser,” or sometimes just a “pantser”—and no, I’m not making this up).

Over the last decade, as I’ve taught writing seminars across North America I’ve found that when I advise people to stop outlining and instead develop a more personalized, organic writing process, I get strange looks as if that goes against some sort of rule.

Well, if that’s the case, I invite you to the rebellion. If you’ve ever wanted to throw away your outline and uncover a story word by word, here’s how to get started.

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