I've heard many opinions on how to best start a novel. During NaNoWriMo there was a huge emphasis on pants-ing stories, where you just let the ideas come to you as you write. I have also heard other writers scream from the roof tops that you absolutely need an outline or else your story with crumble like wet toilet paper. I have tried both methods and I am going to share my findings.
To give newbies a little more background, pants-ing is where you fly by the seat of your pants when writing. You start your story with little to no idea of what you are doing and just go. This is to help encourage more creativity and not putting pressure on your writing. Pants-ing is great for generating fresh ideas with little restriction from an outline. Long story short, though, I find it much easier to pants a short story than a novel. With short stories you are keeping up a momentum for far shorter than with a novel. Letting a story go with no direction for an afternoon is simpler than trying to keep the fresh ideas coming for months and months. I think pants can be helpful if you are fed up with the direction your novel is going, but the portions of my NaNo novel where I pants-ed suffered greatly. I found my story taking huge tonal shifts or going into places that made no sense in the current context of my story. It helped me get words out and free up my thinking, but nearly all portions of my story that I pants-ed are going to be cut from the finished product.
Which brings us to outlining.
I'm just going to come out and say it: I enjoy outlining. Outlining provides structure to my story and allows me to think about future scenes and plan it out in great detail in my head. I get excited about scenes coming up and that excitement carries over into the energy of the story. One of the first novels I wrote was when I was about 13 or 14 years olds and the first thing I did was create an outline. I broke down the scenes chapter by chapter and used that as my jumping off point throughout the story. It helped maintain my focus and get me to my end goal without any messes. Outlines keep you from getting exhausted by needing to generate ideas throughout the writing process. If anyone wants me to break down my outlining process in the future, let me know!
Do you outline or pants your way through stories. Let me know!