12.22: Hybrid Outlining and Discovery Writing

Your Hosts: Brandon, Piper, Dan, and Howard

What can discovery writers learn from outlining? What can outliners learn from discovery writing? Is there a balance between the two that can serve as a happy, productive place for writers? (summary of answers: lots, lots, and yes-but-not-all-writers.)



Write a backward story. Begin with the ending, and work your way backward into the story as you write your way forward with the words.

Nothing Left to Lose, by Dan Wells

5 thoughts on “12.22: Hybrid Outlining and Discovery Writing”

  1. I’m in the middle of my first manuscript (ok. Technically 2nd). And I think I’ve settled into a semi-hybrid. I thought it was heavily outlined. Turns out the first Act was heavily outlined. My 2nd and 3rd Act are lightly outlined and I’m more Discorery Writing how the story unfolds now that I’ve set up the dominoes. And it’s kind of refreshing this way: setting up all the players and plots and just seeing how it plays out.

  2. This was an interesting discussion.

    In my first book, I started out knowing exactly what the climactic moment would look like, and with a basic idea of who the characters who were going to be present would be and what their personality was. I spent the rest of the story introducing everyone and getting them into position so I could pull off that climax, and it went really well!

    In the second book, I pretty much went pure discovery-writing. I had a specific moment kinda-sorta planned out, but it was for the middle of the book, and I had no idea what the ending would be like. It ended up being my weakest story so far, so for the third one I went through and plotted out the ending again and always knew where the story was going… and it still didn’t turn out as well as I’d hoped. I’m partway into the 4th now, working a lot more discovery-writing style again, and it’s going much better than the last two so far.

    So I’m not really sure how much outlining affects my writing either way. :P

  3. Last I checked in early May, the movie adaptation of “I Am Not a Serial Killer” was still available on Netflix. I haven’t watched it yet, but every review I’ve seen was favorable.

  4. In this corner, we have the outliners. And in this corner, we have the discovery writers. And in the middle, we have all the hybrids! A little outlining of plot and beats, then discovery writing characters? Or maybe some other mix? The Utah quartet, Brandon, Piper, Dan, and Howard, talk about how to mix and match those tools, making happy little discoveries as you go. And the transcript has it all, in the archives or over here


    Just remember, sometimes you feel like discovery, sometimes you want a map before you start driving, but either way, you are bound to get somewhere! So start driving.

  5. hmm… Nothing Left to Lose is going to be different than what I think? So… John wins and everyone lives happily ever after?

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