Should vs. Would

So, I’ve mentioned a couple of times lately that I’ve been struggling with my first draft of Project Awesome. This struggle has been frustrating, and not just because it means the draft isn’t getting written as quickly as I’d like. It’s frustrating because I wrote an outline. A really detailed outline. I outlined the heck out of this novel.

I know exactly what I should write next. So why am I getting stuck?

It’s actually taken me three cycles of “stuck/unstuck” to figure this one out.

I’m getting stuck because my outline is wrong. It’s telling me to write things that I want and need the characters to do but which they just wouldn’t do.

Now, I know this is one of those big rules of writing – don’t force the characters into inauthentic actions just to serve the plot. I know this. But somehow I have still created an outline that is telling me to do that very thing.


I guess learning and doing are two different things, but since I was at least able to figure out the problem and fix it, I’m going to chalk this one up as a win.

Still, it’s frustrating, and I think it highlights some of the problems with relying too heavily on plotting (and, perhaps, on the rather artificial and somewhat dishonest division of writers into “pantser” and “plotter” camps). Of course, whether we favor outlines or free writing, we must all sometimes engage in both practices.

I’m usually kind of a control freak (which is probably why I favor outlining), but lately I’ve forced myself to diverge from the outline and just write, just see where my characters want to go – authentically and as themselves – in this rather sticky predicament I’ve created for them.

It’s rather liberating.

Go figure.