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I have always been a pantser. When I get an idea it generally has an opening scene and one or more great characters. The story flows naturally from there. At most I would jot down the major points and a few scenes ahead but I figured the story might shift drastically so I thought that loose was better. It worked for me and the drafts that resulted seemed pretty solid.

Back in June I finished a first draft that I considered worthy of editing. It was wonderful, it was awesome and it was also an unholy mess that would need pain and blood and tears to turn into a “real book”. In other words it was a first draft and much as I loved it I needed a break. I backed it up in triplicate, closed the file and put it from my mind.

What to do in the meantime? All through writing that other draft I’d had a few stories try to tempt me away. I had been good, giving them no more than a few pages each just to make sure I recorded the idea completely. Now I was free to do more.

I decided to experiment with an outline. I figured, this isn’t my REAL book so I’m free to use it to learn new things. The outline took ages longer than the time I allotted it. Then just as I was ready to begin writing I realized I had pages of character outlining to do as well. It took as long to get to the writing as I had allotted for the entire project!

Once I began writing the going was slower than I anticipated. Slower than my last project in fact. And yet it was steady progress. Most importantly I was producing a cleaner draft than I ever thought possible. There might even be passages that could make into a final draft with little or no revision. Whoa.

What I have learned from this is the value of an outline in ensuring that my first draft is a clean and concise vision of what my eventual novel should look like and I guarantee that the amount of editing that will be necessary on this book is far less than that REAL novel I wrote (and still plan to return to). I have a new tool that saves me time and is making me a better writer. Shiny! I won’t be going back. I’m just too lazy not to put in that extra work in the beginning.

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