Improving My Craft

World Building, Outlining, and Fixing What’s Broken

I’m a new enough writer that the idea of “do what works for you” makes my eyes go blank and my jaw start to sag. I don’t know what works for me. Does flying by the seat of my pants (a.k.a. pantsing) work best? How about outlining? What kind of outlining? How detailed is too detailed? How do I get from idea to outline to story?

The truth is, I just don’t know.


And I’m okay with that. Part of what I find so thrilling about the writing journey is the learning process. I can see tangible evidence of my growth and change with each new project. Yes, I get frustrated. Yes, I hit the wall. But I can look back and see what I’ve learned on past stories and hold tight to the faith that I’ll find my way out of this predicament, too.

At the end of NaNoWriMo2015, I seriously considered tossing my story aside. I didn’t see any way it could be fixed. I had stuck faithfully to the outline I developed in October only to find that I was forcing my characters into situations that just didn’t make sense. I lost sight of the wow-factor, that piece of my story that really got me excited, in this case the magic system, and I thought the whole thing was broken beyond repair.

Over the Christmas break, I decided to set the piece aside and work on something else. Still, my mind kept wandering back to the NaNo project. I decided that if my brain wasn’t willing to give it up, then neither was I.

Since then, I’ve been working through getting much more detailed with the world building aspect of things, and that, in turn, has helped to guide the story to a better place. I’m using a few different methods I’ve read about online (Snowflake Method and 30 Days of Worldbuilding along with some Scrivener templates from Belinda Crawford that I have adapted for my own comfort), but instead of trying to follow every step with dutiful precision, I’m allowing my mind to guide me into finding what works. If I get to a point where I feel like the setting is a little vague, I don’t try to power through character or plot point. Instead, I allow myself to detour.

In giving myself permission to follow my own instincts, I’ve found the excitement for my story again. I still don’t know what my writing process is. Learning that will just take more time. But it’s time that I am willing to give.

2 thoughts on “World Building, Outlining, and Fixing What’s Broken”

  1. Love this. I just started a detour on my NaNo project to do backstory on a secondary character. I’m hoping it helps me get past a block on some key plot points.


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