In my writing style, I make an outline of what I'm going to write, and I have fun in between. I was kidding myself in thinking outlining contrasted with "stream of consciousness" in which thoughts just flow onto the screen (paper?)

My goal is to finish writing my book(which may or may not turn into an anthology of short stories), which has been written with both outlines and stream of consciousness in unsteady and wavering levels and combinations.

Given the above, how should I continue writing? I want to improve, so should I try less outlining? A more rigid format? Something else entirely? Why? What are the pros and cons of different levels of rigidity in planning?

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    'This or that' questions generally do not fit in a Stack Exchange format all that well. Asking about the pros and cons of each with relation to productivity might be a better question, if you edit this one. If you want this answered for you, think about what an answer needs to contain to be helpful and write a question to get that answer. – justkt Sep 24 '11 at 3:31
  • I'll edit the question – Matthew Paul Chapdelaine Sep 24 '11 at 4:36
  • when you do, at reply to me and I'll re-open it. – justkt Sep 25 '11 at 0:44
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    the question needs fleshing out. Make it follow all these guidelines. – justkt Sep 26 '11 at 12:34
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    I still don't accept your contrasting of 'stream of consciousness' with 'outlining'. I think it's very possible to write something using the 'stream of consciousness' technique while following an outline, because stream of consciousness is how the words appear to the reader, not how they came from the writer. It's also very possible to write without an outline without writing in a stream of consciousness style. It's a false dichotomy. – Kate S. Sep 28 '11 at 20:59

'Stream of Consciousness' is usually considered a narrative mode - it's a style, more than a habit of writing. You could absolutely write in stream of consciousness using an outline. Think of it like intense first person, with no rational filters or structural impositions.

I think what you're asking is 'which is more productive, discovery/'pantsing' or outlining?'. The question has been more-or-less asked and answered, here. The only difference with your question is the idea of productivity, and I'm not sure if that's a useful concept, really. It may be too vague, because... what are you trying to produce?

If you just want a lot of words, pants it. Sit down and write, and see what comes out.

If you want something of good quality, things get trickier. I honestly think this may be a genre specific question, at least to some extent. I write Romance, where the formula is quite rigid, and the challenge comes from trying to make the same basic story structure feel fresh and original. It's possible to write by the seat of my pants when I'm writing Romance because the genre imposes a structure of its own. I can be a discovery writer and let my characters explore their world because I know, at least in the largest sense, where they have to go eventually.

But when I try to add a mystery, with the need for clues, or a thriller with complicated plotlines, I find myself needing more of an outline in order to keep myself on track. Some people can write complicated works without an outline, but I'm not one of them.

I think it also depends how much re-writing you're planning to do. when I write from an outline, I don't need to make serious changes before the book's ready to go, because it was already fairly structured and tight. When I write without an outline, I need to be prepared to go back and chop or add to make things work out.

Honestly, I think this is another area where each writer needs to explore and find out what works for him or her self. Sorry.


What you need to consider is how you do other things in life.

If you make To-do lists and stick with them then an outline might help you write. If you faithfully follow assembly directions on a piece of equipment you bough or furniture then you might do well with an outline.

If you go through the motions of writing an outline and then don't really use it or make repeated changes to it as you write - I'd suggest the outline method isn't your style.

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