Outlining vs. Freewriting

How do you write? Are you an outliner, who spends hours upon hours blocking out every scene of every chapter in your novel so that you know exactly where the story is going at every turn?

Or do you prefer to just "wing it", making the whole thing up as you sit in front of the computer?

Which is better?

Honestly, there's no right or wrong answer to this question. Everyone does it a little differently. From Brandon Sanderson to Stephen King, every author has his or her own way of developing their story. How do we at the Writers Ramble do it? Well, check the links below to find out what our personal preferences are and why:

Are you a Pantser?
By Josh Morrey
What's better? To plan out your story before you start writing? Or to just sit down and start typing, letting whatever happens, happen? I share the pros and cons of both practices, discuss how a few best sellers of our day tackle the question, and share my own habits in this post.

What Traveling Has Taught Me About Writing
By Heidi Wilde
However you are used to classifying these two creation styles they boil down to the same two categories. Do you like to plan out your novels and short stories or do you prefer to let your stories tell themselves?

To Pants or to Plan? That is the Question...
By Heidi Thornock
From bad experience, I have found that if I don't at least plan the major plot points along my storyline, my story is unfocused, which means it requires A LOT more work in revision. But if I plan every single detail, I lose a lot of the excitement of writing. So where's the balance?

Outlining or Free Writing: Finding he Middle Way
By Tom Abbott
I decided long before I ever wanted to try my hand at writing that I was definitely an outliner.  However, the more I wrote the more I began to realize that the term outliner didn’t describe me.  I don't identify with either side of this argument, really.  I approach my work in phases, and I use techniques from both both camps.  In truth, I’m more of a planner and a list-maker.

Outlining and Free-Writing: A Give-And-Take Relationship
By Rachel Johnson
I used to swear outlining wasn't for me until I learned a few things that have permanently changed my writing for the better: 1- Outlines don't all have to look the same; 2- A good outline helps to find holes in the plot; 3- Outlining can be used as an editing tool after the book is written. I discovered an outlining technique that gives me both structure and the flexibility that I need. Now I wonder how I ever lived without it.

The Hero's Journey: Departure

The Hero's Journey: Departure

The Hero’s journey is a pattern of story development that can create powerful resonance in your writing.  Not every story has to fit the structure of the Hero’s Journey, but understanding how to adapt your story to incorporate ideas from the Hero’s Journey will give your story a more punch.

In this month’s Writer’s Ramble post, we explore the first overall stage of the Hero’s Journey, known as Departure.  In this stage, the hero’s normal life is interrupted, and he or she is compelled to leave their comfort area and venture into the unknown.

By Tom Abbott
In the basic pattern, the hero begins the story living in the every-day world, and has an experience of some sort that disrupts their life or alters the way they view the world.  This experience puts the hero upon a threshold where they must choose to stay in their safe little world or venture forth into the unknown 

By Josh Morrey
Why would you answer the Call to Adventure? Why do our heroes do it? In this post I explore the reasons we follow the characters in our fiction when they answer the Call. Do they answer it willingly, or reluctantly? What would you do?

The Refusal of the Call
By Heidi Wilde
How many of us dream of a life of Adventure, but when an opportunity knocks on our door we find a million excuses why we can't go? Our Heroes are no different. Once a Hero is given the Call to Adventure he or she will either accept or refuse the Call. You may be thinking that your Hero cannot Refuse the Call or there would be no story – and you would be partially correct. If you ended your story with a Refusal there really wouldn’t be a story, but there are a couple of ways that you can make a Refusal work for you.

By Heidi Thornock
In this post, I discuss how perhaps the Belly of the Whale isn't as narrowly defined as traditionalists would think.

...in a galaxy far, far away...

Welcome! This month's ramble is all about setting. What is setting? Why is it important? How do we do it right? Setting can be as small as say, a phone booth, or as large as a galaxy; or larger. It can include every detail from the tiniest dust speck to the largest asteroid. In short, the setting of a story is anywhere and everywhere the story takes place. But it's not just about physical location, or the objects that make up that location. It can also include cultures, senses (sight, smell, sound, etc.), and environmental effects such as weather. In short, setting is everything surrounding the characters you've created.

This month, our members will breakdown what setting means to them and how they use it to effectively tell the stories they invent. Click on any of the links below to read more:

Josh Morrey
It was a Dark and Stormy Night...
Setting, or milieu, is one of the four basic factors that make up every story. When creating a scene, the setting is everything that surrounds the characters; and I mean everything. I've come up with a list of various aspects of the setting that need to be taken into account in order to create a believable setting...

Heidi Thornock
Making Setting Work for You
Ah, setting. Just one more thing that you have to add in to your story before it's finished. Or is it something more? Read my blog post to find out how to actually make setting work for you rather than just be a check mark off your writing list.

And Now for Something Different...

This month we decided to tell you a little bit about our current or recent WIPs (Works in Progress). The stages of our WIPs range from first drafts to just completed, and everything in between. So sit back, relax, and learn a little bit more about what we are writing (and why we can seem to only blog monthly)...

Intensive Revision and What I Learned From It
Heidi Thornock
I just finished an intensive revision session on two stories to submit to different contests.  Come read what they are about, and what I learned about myself as a writer. Perhaps some of my weaknesses are your own, and my post will help you (as well as me) avoid them in future drafts.

Tom Abbott
I've been working on a novel called "Mage's Craft."  Friends are always excited when they hear that I'm working on a novel.  They are curious to know what it's about, and when I'll have it finished.  I answer those questions, and talk about what I want in a story.

Some day...
Josh Morrey
Ever had a goal you've chased for many, many years? My current work in progress is focused on the same thing I've been working on since 2006: Winning the Writers of the Future contest. In this post, I talk about some of my recent entries in the contest and a little about the current story I'm working on to attain this lofty goal.

Who Are You? A Characters Developement Guide

Hannibal Lecter: You never knew he existed until you read a book and the author introduced you to... a sociopath. Your stomach cringes, maybe there's a knot of nausea, because through the writer's words, you'll hear that hideous sucking sound he makes when pushing his tongue up against his front teeth. His unsavory habit of cannibalism, is why he's transported in a locked body brace and a face mask, yet we're still tantalizingly engrossed with the metalic taste of fresh iron scented blood, and the shredding tear of skin when an officer gets too close. But it's when he says, "Clarisse," in that demented way he does that you feel the spider legs crawling up your spine and you have to tell yourself outloud that He's just a Character, and you are not his next meal, or are you...

The following articles are written by our own Writers' Ramble members. Read how they develop there characters.

The Character
Before I start writing a manuscript, I like to have a good understanding of who my 'players' are. If I'm going to have a heist in a bank, I wouldn't use a blundering idiot. That's just common sense. I wouldn't use a fast tempered, hungry-for-cash criminal either. I'd want a smart, devious, and very organized individual. A single gentleman or woman with a lot of time. That would take some interviewing.

Where Do Characters Come From, Mommy?
Heidi Wilde
As with most of our topics, our answers will be different. I decided to go through a few of my projects and jot down how I ended up with the characters I have and see if I could find a pattern ;) And what do you know, I did!

Wait, you did what? With who? WHERE?
Josh Morrey
If you're writing a story, there's a pretty good chance you have characters in it. Even if your tale is composed entirely of inanimate objects, there's going to be some personality, some history, some purpose to those objects. So how do you make them believable people? How do you portray them in a way that will make your readers not only understand them, but care about them?

Knowing Your Character
Depending on which theorist you listen to, there are only 6, 7, 10, or 20 basic plots for every story. But regardless of the number, the message is clear: there are a limited number of stories to tell. You don't believe me?



Muses, Epiphanies, Inspirations, oh my!

What inspires you? I’ve been to quite a few writing seminars, symposiums, conferences, classes, etc and I have heard the audience ask the panels many times “Where do you get your inspiration from?” The answers are as varied as the authors. Inspiration can come from anyone, anywhere. This month we will each discuss what motivates and inspires us and, with any luck, we’ll in turn motivate and inspire you.

We would love to hear about your muses and inspirations. Tell us all about them in the comments section!

What Inspires You?
Heidi Wilde
This month my writing group’s blog discussion is about Muses and Inspiration. Where do ideas come from? The answer will be different for everyone. It’s important to keep yourself open and always searching; there’s an idea hiding in every nook and cranny of this world. They are just waiting for the right person to find them and bring them to life.

Meet My Muse
Doree Anderson
I hug her, and I squeeze her, and I call her 'Myrtle', Muse.

What If...?
Josh Morrey
For me, it all begins with one, simple question: What If?

Finding Your Muse
Tom Abbott
It's a long way to the top if you wanna write and sell! Four things that have helped energize my inner muse and break through writer's block.

Heidi Thornock
Since I went to LTUE in February, I've been experimenting with a few things, and I've found my inspiration has come more readily since. So here's what I've learned works for me and my Muse.

Point of View

Cartoon courtesy of www.cartoonstock.com
Point of View sounds simple enough, but it is an important topic that covers a broad range of ideas. Point of view may include objective, limited, or omniscient; first-, second-, or third-person. It must also remain consistent to the POV character (which is a lot harder than it sounds). And to top it all off, a piece of writing may include a single character's point of view or several.

And whatever you do, make sure you get it right.
Or else.

Read our advice below to help you prevent your story from falling apart...or at least not because of your Point of View.

Which POV is Best for Your Story?
Heidi Thornock
Are you unsure which POV options to choose for your story? Read my blog for some of the basic effects - and inherent problems - created by each POV option. I explore first-, second-, and third-person, as well as objective, limited, and omniscient points of view. Read tips on how to decide which POV will work best for the type of story you want to tell.

Which Point of View is Right For Me?
Heidi Wilde
One of the first things you need to decide when starting a writing project is what Point of View (POV) you are going to use to tell your story. There are reasons for choosing each one and there are benefits and drawbacks to each as well.

Point of View in Writing
Doree Anderson
If you don't know what it means by first-, second-, or third-person, read on for fundamental definitions and practical examples.

Using Voice to Enhance Point of View
Tom Abbott
Ever read a story where the man character had a strong personality, and you felt like you knew him personally by the time you finished the book?  Let's talk about voice, and how you can use it to enhance your story's point of view.

Life, the Universe, & Everything 2013

What is LTUE?

Only THE biggest fantasy and science fiction writer’s convention ever!  This year’s Life, the Universe, & Everything symposium was held at the Mariott hotel in downtown Provo (You’ve heard of Provo, the same town that Neon Trees is from).   Our guests of honor were
Megan Whalen Turner (The Thief)
Larry Correia (Monster Hunter International)
David Farland (Runelords)
Tracy & Laura Hickman (Dragonlance)
James A. Owen (Here, There Be Dragons)
Eric James Stone
Brad R. Torgersen.

We attended three solid days’ worth of panels on writing science fiction and fantasy.  We had some amazing discussions, and did a lot of good networking with friends, and met new colleagues.  We also picked up two new members in our writer’s group.

For this month’s Writer’s Ramble post, we decided to pick a panel that we found interesting, and write about it.

Writers of the Future
Tom Abbott
We had one hour to sit down with David Farland, coordinating judge for L. Ron Hubbard’s Writers of the Future contest and thoroughly pick his brain.  Also in this panel were contest super-stars Eric James Stone, and Brad R. Torgersen.  We came away with some great insights on how to do better in the contest, and hopefully improve our odds at winning.  How many people submit to WotF each quarter?  What does Honorable Mention, Semi-finalist, and Finalist mean?  What kinds of things are the judges looking for?

Overcoming (Writing) Adversity
Heidi Thornock
Do you have a super-busy schedule? Is it difficult for you to find time to dedicate to your writing career? If so, then you are like most of us. However, I was especially feeling discouraged with my lack of progress, so I made a special effort to attend the panel on Overcoming Adversity. Read my full post to find the advice -- and encouragement -- from successful writers on how to structure your life to include this crazy thing we do called writing.

Writing Effective Teasers
Heidi Wilde
So, you've finished your book. Now you need to get people to read it! Writing a book and writing an effective teaser actually use different writing muscles. Come read the pointers I gleaned from attending Howard Tayler's Teaser panel.

Everything I Need to Know About Writing I Learned From The Matrix
Josh Morrey
I learned a ton at LTUE. But the most in depth panel I attended was J. Scott Savage's lecture about how The Matrix can teach you everything you need to know about creating a gripping and compelling tale. In this post I break down the many elements of this story that make it great, list six ways to increase the tension of your story, and share with you a valuable lesson that in all my years of studying writing I'd never heard before.

Should You Join a Writer's Group?

We decided to start off our writers' smorgasbord with a discussion about writing groups. What are writing groups? What are they good for? What are they bad for? Should you be a member of a writing group?

We here at the Ramble are all members of the same writing group, affectionately known as the Word Vomit Writers Group. We formed about a year ago and meet once a week online in a Google+ Hangout. We critique each others' writing, participate in writing activities, share anything we learn about writing, build friendships, and generally just have a good time.

So what are the pros and cons of being in a writing group? Well, we have five different opinions here for you to read and consider. Below are snippets from each of our own personal blog posts on this topic. Follow the link beneath each snippet to read the full article. Feel free to read all of the posts, or just the ones that interest you.

Josh Morrey (joshmorreywriting.blogspot.com)
Writing Groups; The Good, The Bad, and the Wary
Why join a writing group? I heard it said once that the first draft of a story is for you, the second draft is for your readers. If you’re someone who writes simply for the enjoyment that you get out of writing, and you have no intention of ever publishing your work, then a writing group may not be the thing for you. However, if you have aspirations of publication, it’s imperative to learn how to write for others. 

Tom Abbott (forgefire.blogspot.com)
Ever wondered if you ought to try a writer’s group?  I’ll share a few things that I’ve learned, plus tips on how you can get the most from your writer’s group.  Probably the most fun we've has has been through the group activities that we do together.  Read on for more!

Heidi Thornock (heidithornock.blogspot.com)
Even experienced and highly successful authors have their own individualized versions of critique groups. It's pretty clear that a peer review group is something closely aligned with success as a writer. But rather than just adding "Get a Critique Group" to your Writing To-Do List, have you ever considered why you are actually seeking such a group? What value does a critique group add to your writing? And why is it so intricately tied to success?

Steve Meyers (www.start-off-smart.com)
Why Join a Writer's Group?
The most complete answers I give my clients in my day job as an online optimization consultant often start with, “it depends.”  What you want out of your writing has a lot to do with what you’ll gain by joining a writing group.  Do you write for fun, as a creative outlet?  Or do you want to get published?

Heidi Wilde (leyiralane.blogspot.com)
Writing Groups 101
There are many reasons to join a writing group; possibly one for every writer, the key is to find the group that fulfills your reasons.  This blog post will go into the reasons I decided to join a writers group and what I have gained from it (as well as a few things to keep in mind when deciding on a group).