I have read Harry Potter and am a big fan of J.K. Rowling's writing and I had always had this urge to blog and to write. So, I started a blog - 2200 Common Era.

I've the basic idea of writing a science fiction set in the backdrop of space. I don't know the whole story or to say, I don't have the whole story in my mind.

I decide what should be written next only when I am writing that. So, I want to ask what should I do? Should I build the whole story and then reproduce it in written, or think of story each time I write?


8 Answers 8


I decide what should be written next only when I am writing that.

This called being a "pants writer" or a "pantser," meaning that you write by the seat of your pants. It's completely valid as a workflow, IF you are then willing to go back to the beginning when you're finished and edit with a firm, even harsh hand.

Just because it spews out of you doesn't mean the plot will work, the characters will be intriguing, or all the questions will be answered. So you will have to go back and tweak, fix, rewrite, and possibly unravel chunks of the story.

On the other hand, you can't edit a blank page. If you pants the entire thing, you will have a book to wrangle into shape.

I say go for it. Write what comes out, write to the end, and then go back and fix it afterward. Just remember that for a pantser, the editing and rewriting are part of your first draft process, not optional passes.

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    As an example of this, I was writing up an RPG that I played in while the game ran, meaning none of us knew where it was going -- but we knew the GM was story-oriented and had a plan. That write-up (in-character journal) actually held together much better than I'd expected, though it would still need a lot of editing before it could be published anywhere other than on the game blog where I posted it episodically. Sep 29, 2014 at 20:56
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    @MonicaCellio Gary Gygax did this with a series of novels. He did not do the necessary editing for the ending, however. (It was a total deus ex machina; I felt very cheated.) Sep 30, 2014 at 9:47

I firmly believe that you should try both approaches and experience yourself what works best for you.

Would you marry someone that you have never seen? Would you sign up for a job, or employ a new worker, without some practical probation? Would you buy a car without testdriving it? Would you decide on a lifelong diet without trying at least one meal? Do you try on your shoes and clothes?

Why the hell would you decide to write in a certain way without having tried the other way at least once?!?

People are different. What works fine for some of the answerers here, might not work for you. Not everyone finds the same persons attractive. Not everyone likes the same kind of food. Not everyone wants the same job. Not all clothes fit everyone equally well. To find out what fits you in writing, you have to try it on.

Both outline and no outline have their advantages and disadvantages.

Outlining gives you more control and usually results in a more tight arc of suspense and satisfying end. No outline on the other hand often feels less constucted and flows more naturally.

No outline writing will require more painful rewriting, since cleaning up the loose ends and filling the plot holes will force you to change what on the gut level feels right to you. No outline writers often have writer's block in the rewriting phase, losing the feeling for their work. Also, having to write the same thing twice is often almost impossible for "discovery writers", as they are sometimes called: writing for them is experiencing, and they have already lived this life, and living it again is simply not possible. Rewriting makes their story feel stale and wrong for them.

Outline writing carries the danger of overthinking, overplanning, and too much backstory. Outline writers sometimes get lost in research, world building, and characterization, and they will sometimes find it difficult to clearly see how much needs to be included in the story and what needs to be trimmed and deleted, or what is missing because while they know it their readers won't.

Some professionals have found, through trial and error, a combination of both approaches that works for them. Some, like Brandon Sanderson, create a rough outline of the plot, so they know the route they are taking, but leave the character development and those characters' exact actions open for discovery during the writing process.

A good procedure will depend a lot on the kind of story you want to tell. A detective story will need more planning, or else the riddles, clues and resolution won't add up. A character study like a story of a cast of characters forced together in a difficult situation will need more character planning, and might leave the development of the story open for discovery.

Beyond that, what works for you will depend on the kind of person you are, and only you can find that out.


This fits firmly into the category of "do what works for you."

I find that the more I plan ahead, the less likely I'm going to reach my destination. I work best when I have an open story ahead, and my world and its characters are allowed to grow in their own ways. This has the added benefit of allowing me to be surprised a bit by my own writing.

However, writing without a plan does have some issues that need to be addressed.

  1. Inconsistencies and contradictions are easier to come by. Enjoying creative freedom is no excuse for sloppy writing. It is important to keep combing through what has been written to make sure there is continuity with is currently in your head. It may be necessary to create an outline after the fact to keep track of what has happened so far.

  2. New ideas, characters and settings that pop in to your story need to make sense. Some things cannot be just added in at the point where you are writing, it will often be necessary to go back and introduce plot points earlier in the story so that they will make sense.

  3. Be prepared to crash and burn. It is easy for a story to get lost. You may very well get to a point where you have no idea where to go next. I have no good advice for that other than don't lose hope.


There's nothing wrong with writing off the cuff: trying to keep written conversation flowing nicely by a version of stream-of-consciousness i.e. if you type reasonably fast its almost like "recording" your own imagination-dialogue. Done well it makes for excellent material - well-paced and "natural" on read-back.

The rub comes when you've finished first splurge: editing, distilling your material, layering in the 'bigger picture' content, quality and all the while maintaining that original immersive flow. It's a technique worth practising and one can do it anywhere, even eavesdropping on the subway. Soon enough even the narrative embellishments/description start including themselves in the 'stream'...


A common practice is to envision a scene and then write the story towards that scene.

Quentin tarantino Thought up a scene where 3 men with 2 pistols each were pointing their handguns at each other in a mexican standoff. He didn't know who any of them were or what quarrel they had, but that was what he started with to make his story.

To answer your question about JK Rowling. I'm pretty sure that she came up with the idea of the deathly hollows around the making of the last book.

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    JKR has stated in interviews that she came up with the entire idea of the seven-book arc in one marathon train ride. She may not have had all the small details, but I believe that the hallows were part of the original idea. Sep 29, 2014 at 16:15

In my experience it goes both ways.

Either you start with an outline and write chapters and scenes from it, or once you've written your first draft "by the seat of your pants" you might end up creating what looks pretty much like an outline, or a scene list, just to get a grip of the often chaotic mass of text in the first draft. (This is at least how it works for me when I do it "by the seats of my pants").

You should probably refrain from submitting/publishing anything until you've rewritten the text in several drafts and know how things begin, tie together in the middle, and end. If you want to write at the top of your capacity several rewrites and lots of figuring things out and getting things to fit together is a must.

Nobody writes a first draft and gets it published, not even your favourite author :D

I sense in your question you might want to publish the text on a blog? You might copy the approach of TV shows and write episodes. However I have no experience with that kind of writing, but I am guessing they pretty much know the general details of every episode of the season before they air anything.

However, going with an outline first or not... try one approach. If you don't like the result, try another.

You could also finish a chapter at a time, polish it until it shines and then go on to the next. It's an approach between "seats of the pants" and outlining. Just like "seats of the pants", it might end in a big nothing.

You might also look into another form of outlining called "The Snowflake Method".

Finally, remember. It's all about creating the final manuscript... what method you use to get there is in fact irrelevant... Once you've written a few scripts you'll create your own process, and it may be anything between "outlining" and "seats of the pants" or both or something completely different.

P.s. I am not a native English speaker, and I don't write in English, so read between any grammatical errors! :D.s.


It is bad to write with no plan whatsoever. Your story will meander too much. It might be an interesting trip, but you'll get lost and go nowhere. At the absolute minimum, you need an ending toward which you are working (according to every professional writer I've ever seen/read interviewed). [edit: But see discussion in comments below.] Preferably, you should also have "way points," which are mini end points -- rest stops on your journey. That means you need at least a very rough outline of your story arc. After that, feel free to explore the "scenic countryside" of your story.

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    Then let me introduce you to a professional writer who does not need an ending toward he is working: deanwesleysmith.com Oct 1, 2014 at 10:53
  • Did Smith always write that way, or is he now so experienced, after years of writing, that he writes to an endpoint instinctively, without carefully planning it out? I'm genuinely asking. In most forms of art, there are masters who seem to make art "effortlessly" -- it just "flows out of them." But they arrived at that point after years of practice. OTOH, there are also (very rarely) savants who seem to be born that way. But -- and this is my point -- anyone asking for help is obviously in category 1. If Smith has a different theory of writing, feel free to correct me.
    – dmm
    Oct 1, 2014 at 14:33
  • First, you can ask himself. From what I have read about/from him, I assume he will answer such questions freely. But I can say, that it took him some years to write the way he does today. He talks about that from time to time on his blog. His 'breakthrough' was when he started listen to his gut feeling (trust his subconscious) while writing and followed Heinlein's rules. You can learn a lot about him and how he is doing it when reading his Sacred Cows and Think Like a Publisher articles. Which I highly recommend. Oct 1, 2014 at 21:44
  • Here is the link for writing with no outline (see #3): deanwesleysmith.com/… But, note that he says "no outline," not "no idea whatsoever of my basic storyline." Even experienced writers must have some thought along the lines of "I'm going to write about a smart-aleck spy who uses cool gadgets to defeat bad guys who also use cool gadgets, while picking up hot babes." Maybe even start off with just the spy and the bad guys, and then add in the attitude, gadgets, and babes later. But one doesn't just sit and type like a genius monkey.
    – dmm
    Oct 2, 2014 at 4:57
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    Having taken nearly all of Dean's online workshops, I can say that he strongly recommends that even new writers "write into the dark." His theory is everybody's subconscious "creative voice" knows how to tell a story, and if you can shut off the critical voice, your creative voice will tell a good story. Much of his advice is about how to shut off critical voice and get into creative voice. He does acknowledge (often) that no two writers are the same, and every writer has to find their own way. He even offers a variety of approaches to outlining. But mostly he advises writing into the dark. Oct 3, 2014 at 21:06

There is absolutely nothing wrong with writing a story this way. I personally believe the end-product of this method has potential to be more engaging than its counterpart. You are basing the content of your writing entirely upon inspiration rather than finding a means to an end. You will, however, need to do a fair amount more revising.

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