There’s always a lot of talk about planning your stories, developing your characters, and creating a basic outline before you really start writing your story. However, this way of writing is not for everyone. Some people, like me, prefer to write without having an elaborated plan for the story. That’s called organic writing. Keep reading to find out how that works and why it could be a helpful method for you as well!
What is organic writing?
Let me clarify what organic writing is first. Basically, you don’t follow an outline while writing. You don’t have a prearranged plotline but rather let the characters do what they would naturally without following any restrictions. However, this doesn’t mean that you have no plan at all! You still need to have a basic idea of what you want your story to be about, what genre it should fit in, and which characters to write about. A good question to ask yourself in the process of writing is “What do I want to achieve with this story?”. You could want to surprise the reader, give them something to think about or get emotional reactions! There are many good answers to this question.
With all of this in mind, an organic writer works from one scene to the next. Before writing it, it’s not clear what will happen in the scene. You can imagine it as if the characters would write the story. Additionally, because the characters don’t get planned in detail beforehand, the author will get to know them while writing. This also means that it’s often unknown what the end of the story will look like. As an organic writer, you might have several ideas for the ending but you don’t know how the character will react to the surprises in the story.
Although this is a basic definition of organic writing, keep in mind that those are not strict rules. Somebody can, for example, plan their characters in detail and still call themself an organic writer. The general idea of organic writing is to avoid getting restricted by a detailed outline.
Advantages and Disadvantages
As always, there are some advantages and disadvantages. I’ll start with the advantages of organic writing.
A very important part of organic writing is that there are surprises for the author. Instead of knowing what will happen, you learn more about the characters and their story while writing. The constant flow of new information keeps writing exciting! Look at it like this: While writing, an organic writer can uncover the outline. This way, you’ll stay excited about your own work! This is great if you’re publishing online. Not only will your readers be excited about the next chapter, but you will be too!
We all know that planning takes a lot of time. Many writers I’ve talked to don’t even enjoy that. For me, feeling the need to do something that I don’t enjoy made me hate writing, and I stopped for quite some time. By writing organically, you can do what you like most about writing; write! No more spending that much time on something that you don’t enjoy.
Another important point is that a good outline alone would be worth nothing without good story ideas. Nobody would read your story if there are no good or original ideas, even if you can show off with detailed characters and a fully planned story outline. There’s a lot more to a story than just the outline.
Even if they have great ideas, some authors feel restricted by an outline. They spend hours planning and then want to stick to it. If there’s an idea that comes up while writing, you need additional time to implement it into the already finished outline. This can discourage authors from even trying to add new ideas which limits creativity.
Let’s not forget about the importance of an outline for your story. Without an outline, the pacing can be really bad if you’re not experienced enough. Moreover, complex stories; for example, those with good magic systems, require some planning. The more complicated you think your story will be, the more you should plan beforehand.
In addition, you need to know all the basics of writing for this to really work. What makes a good story? What intrigues readers? Did you think about diversity? How will you deal with writer’s block? Luckily, we’re on a website about writing, so you’ll find a lot of answers here already. However, you also need the basic competency to write organically while not going too far away from the interesting plot. This can take time and practise if you’re not used to it, maybe even more time than just planning your story.
How you can use it
After looking at the advantages and disadvantages, we can see that organic writing isn’t perfect. If you don’t have the basic competency that’s needed for organic writing, making an outline is the better idea for you. However, there are ways to implement organic writing into your writing process to cut down the amount of time needed for planning and to save your creativity! Here are some tips on how to use organic writing:
This is something organic writers do as well sometimes. Instead of creating a detailed outline, you write down goals in your story that you want the characters to reach sooner or later. This is all about what you want to see in the story and what you want to write about! For example, if you want your characters to find a magic stone, that can be one of your milestones! This helps you to keep track of where your story should go and where it is going. If you feel you’re too far away from reaching the next milestone, you might want to rethink the last few scenes. In between the milestones, you can write whatever seems natural, but you still have a very basic plan of where in the story you are and what should happen next.
If you have a detailed plan of your story, it’s fine to just write any scene when the words come to mind. However, not planning out the whole story at the beginning, almost forces you to write the scenes in the correct order. Let’s say one of your milestones is a heated debate and you came up with the perfect dialogue for this scene. Since you haven’t reached that point of the story in your writing process yet, you shouldn’t write this scene right away. After all, you don’t know if it will fit in the way you are imagining it now.
Even if you have an outline, writing chronologically gives you a better chance at implementing your new ideas for later parts. Nevertheless, we don’t want to lose great ideas! Write it down somewhere in keywords or record your voice acting out the dialogue! All ideas are valuable, even if they don’t come up at the right moment.
Write several versions
As an organic writer, what you write partly depends on your mood at the time you’re writing. Therefore, writing several versions of a scene can be useful to choose the perfect one! You can also do this when you’re unhappy with the outline you’ve created and want to find something better! Just choose a starting point and write from there, then start again at that point the next day or even the next week. This is also great for boosting your creativity if you’re out of ideas for your story! You could try to write different versions of a short story to get the ideas flowing and maybe you’ll find the right ones for your main story!
Try it in your head
This is for those who want to stick to fully planning out their story. When you’re unsure if you’ve planned out a good scene or if there’s something you should change about it to make it feel more natural, just organically write it in your head! Let the scene happen in your mind exactly how you planned it, then change something, try something new, forget about the outline and go wild! Maybe you’ll find a better idea for your scene that way or you’ll realise that you’ve already planned the best one.
Organic writing is a great way to use all of your creativity, but it’s also very helpful if you’re annoyed by all the planning and outlining. Are you an organic writer or want to try it? Head over to the ShanniiWrites Forums and tell us about your experiences!