This is for all you pantsers out there. Those who scoff at plans and outlines in favor of the more primal rush of spontaneity. Strap on your seatbelt, kids. This is a detailed guide to completing a novel without an outline. I call it: The Scene Method.
The steps are straightforward and easy to follow. After your first novel or two, you’ll be better able to craft non-linear novels using this method if you’d like. It’s okay if your first novel feels too direct in its arc; you’ll have plenty of time to change things up after the initial drafts. There’s no fear here. Only scenes.
All right, here we go.
Step 1: The Realm of Endless Possibility
This is the glorious span of time when you’ve got an idea percolating throughout your brain. It’s new. It’s shiny. It’s the novel everyone needs to read, and you’ve been graced with the idea to write it.
Slow your roll. The gestation period of a story is much longer than the gestation period of a human being. Expect to spend years on this step. Years.
If this is your first attempt at novel writing, you’ll probably start writing prematurely since you don’t have any other stories to distract you. It’s time for discipline; start with short stories, flash fiction, essays, and blog posts while your novel gestates. You probably won’t listen to me (I didn’t), but your novel will more than likely suffer if you don’t. My first novel was an underdeveloped chaotic journey through the forest of boredom because I wrote it too soon.
Give the idea time to grow. Start a document on your computer and write down every good thought that comes to you, but don’t attempt a draft yet. You can’t force a book to be born. You’ve got to let it grow back there in the most fertilized part of your brain. No matter how long you wait, it’ll never be as good on paper as it is in your mind (facts of life), so let it spend as much time as possible back there. Let yourself fall in love with it as an entity, not just as an idea.
Eventually, a character, setting, or plot point will complete its metamorphosis from idea to tangible story. It’ll rage around in your brain and claw it’s way into your everyday life. You’ll no longer be the star of your own dreams; your protagonist and their friends will occupy your every waking and sleeping moment. You will cease to be just one person. Your story will exist all around you. You’ll walk around as if your life is their life. Your friends will think you’re insane. You are. Start writing.
You are now ready for the first draft.