Updated: Jun 18, 2022
Thoughts on the writing process.
The Outliner's Process (06/11/2022)
Everybody needs to find a writing process that fits their unique writing style. Here you'll see an outliners process.
Search through writer's channels on YouTube and you'll find a sea of advice on the writing process. Those who use little outlining, Pantsers, and those who map out their novels, Outliners, agree everyone needs to discover their own process. Is there another issue at hand than merely picking a method?
As a psychologist, I have an interest in exploring how our anxiety gets in the way of completing our novels. Many write with the muse of passion and enjoyment of the art, yet our method can get in the way of mental health. Your method matters! It must take into consideration the consequences of efficiency and stress. It is natural to avoid what causes stress. So ask yourself what's the purpose of TV, video games, hanging out too much with friends, chores, or other tasks that get in the way of writing. Balance is good, but writing avoidance is a negative feedback loop of increasing stress.
Outlining the plot and character development is one way to ensure you aren't stressing out about what to write next. It creates short-term objectives for writing during each session. But this doesn't need to be a weapon to beat yourself up with the judgment bat. If you are feeling inspired, simply write on the topic to keep on track, but give yourself permission to write it as a "zero draft" scene. A zero draft scene is a nice way of saying put something sloppy down on the page with a notation to later go back and clean it up when you are more in the flow of writing.
The other advantage of outlining is writing trigger scenes you don't have the energy to write for the day. Some scenes of trauma or horror may simply be too heavy for your mood. Skipping the heavy scene for the day and writing a lighter will scene keep you on track.
Now, a word on that pesky trigger scene. If you consistently feel the need to skip that scene, perhaps it's time to seek out a therapist to explore why this scene triggers anxiety or depression so much. Using a support system is part of the writing process.
So what does a Pantser outline?
Goals achievement is far less stressful if you break it down into manageable chunks. Even Pantsers will benefit from holding themselves accountable by writing down their non-outlining process and holding themselves accountable when they deviate. For example, a Pantser might pull out a calendar and set up a date to develop their inciting incident. Then the pantser pulls out their day planner to set up a timeframe for making the latte, a writing necessity. Next they'd time when to look at a reference picture for the scene, and review relevant character profile sheets. This preparatory plan outlines the writing process for their fluid way of writing.