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Discussion Starter #1
Pants or outline a legal thriller? I'm about to start writing my first legal thriller, and I'm wondering if pantsing or outlining it will be most effective way to go. Thanks.
 

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Do you usually pants? if so I'd say just do it and see where it takes you, because you can always go back and fix it.

But in saying that, I couldn't even begin to contemplate writing a legal thriller. Not being knowledgeable in law for one, still having to engage in a lot research (I'd imagine) even if I was competent with the legal profession, would make it a tough book to write.

Usually a pantser myself, if I was to write a legal thriller, I'd probably opt to do a thorough outline to save some head aches down the road. Although I'm sure headaches are unavoidable in the genre.

I'm leaning towards: Outline
 

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I would suggest outlining in a case like this, only to make sure that the plot twist you end up hanging the story on is actually possible in a court of law.
 

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You could always outline the courtroom scenes and pants through the out of court parts if that's more like what you're used to.  Whether that's outlining up front or doing a walk through of what needs to happen when the characters are in court, I don't know if it really matters.  I just think that a courtroom is a pretty structured environment, and having a good structure to those parts going in might give it a sense of realism.  Because the lawyers in court already have their cases planned out, so in real life it's almost like they've outlined the story of the court case ahead of time.

I don't know, ultimately it's probably what you are most comfortable with.
 

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I think outlining will clearly help you save time. Maybe if you are new to it think about it this way: you will need to plant a lot of evidence and have stuff happen in a certain order. That will be a lot of things to keep in your mind all the time - that is wasting brain space.
Paper is easier and cheaper.

You will also have a lot of dependencies - again that is easier on paper (postit, writing, online - whatever works best for you) and need to develop rise in tension. If you just pants, you will have difficulties upping the game.

I believe that many pantsers here believe it limits their creative output to 'plan' in advance and makes it less valuable thus avoid plotting / planning altogether. However when you listen to successful pantsers carefully, you will find that they intrinsically do plot a lot first or just have a memory build up on how structure works - they are just not that aware of it.
Last but not least it will save money and time on editing if you have not to go back to the beginning because you run into a dead end you cannot get out of.
 

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I have never outlined, including in complicated mystery/suspense books, and editing generally takes me about three days. I do not throw chapters away or whatever..As the poster above says, though, I think story structure is pretty embedded in my brain. And for my first real deal mystery, I wrote some of the mystery chapters backwards. Starting with the ending and then going back to write earlier and earlier scenes to put in the clues. I have evolved since then I guess and no longer need to do that. You may need to start with more structure for your first foray into the genre.

It also makes a big difference if you are an attorney with courtroom experience. I am fortunate to be able, through connections, to talk with a judge, prosecutor, defense attorney, sheriff’s deputy, etc., but I still would never trust my ability to write a full-on courtroom drama. Just courtroom scenes, and basic investigation. (Funnily enough though, I used to be a legal editor. I copy edited all of California Rules of Criminal Procedure, for ex. But that sure did not make me an expert!) If you have that experience, though, it may come much more easily.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
GTurnbull said:
Do you usually pants? if so I'd say just do it and see where it takes you, because you can always go back and fix it.

But in saying that, I couldn't even begin to contemplate writing a legal thriller. Not being knowledgeable in law for one, still having to engage in a lot research (I'd imagine) even if I was competent with the legal profession, would make it a tough book to write.

Usually a pantser myself, if I was to write a legal thriller, I'd probably opt to do a thorough outline to save some head aches down the road. Although I'm sure headaches are unavoidable in the genre.

I'm leaning towards: Outline
Thanks Guy. Yes, I usually pants. But I have outlined as well. I think I just need to start one of the other and like you say see where it takes me.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
ShayneRutherford said:
I would suggest outlining in a case like this, only to make sure that the plot twist you end up hanging the story on is actually possible in a court of law.
Thanks Shayne. I think I will have to at least have a rudimentary outline. And yeah, I don't want any lawyers saying 'that would never happen!' in their reviews.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
NikOK said:
You could always outline the courtroom scenes and pants through the out of court parts if that's more like what you're used to. Whether that's outlining up front or doing a walk through of what needs to happen when the characters are in court, I don't know if it really matters. I just think that a courtroom is a pretty structured environment, and having a good structure to those parts going in might give it a sense of realism. Because the lawyers in court already have their cases planned out, so in real life it's almost like they've outlined the story of the court case ahead of time.

I don't know, ultimately it's probably what you are most comfortable with.
Thanks Nik.

You could always outline the courtroom scenes and pants through the out of court parts if that's more like what you're used to.
I think this ^ is what I'm going to do. I've got to have the legal stuff orderly and correct, but, especially not being a lawyer, I don't want an overemphasis on outlining to disrupt the organic flow of the story.
 

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LDB said:
For those of us who don't write, what is pants, other than what you put on in the morning?
It comes from the term 'flying by the seat of your pants'. Or in this case, writing by the seat of your pants. Someone who is a pantster is the opposite of someone who is a plotter.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Nicole Simon said:
I think outlining will clearly help you save time. Maybe if you are new to it think about it this way: you will need to plant a lot of evidence and have stuff happen in a certain order. That will be a lot of things to keep in your mind all the time - that is wasting brain space.
Paper is easier and cheaper.

You will also have a lot of dependencies - again that is easier on paper (postit, writing, online - whatever works best for you) and need to develop rise in tension. If you just pants, you will have difficulties upping the game.

I believe that many pantsers here believe it limits their creative output to 'plan' in advance and makes it less valuable thus avoid plotting / planning altogether. However when you listen to successful pantsers carefully, you will find that they intrinsically do plot a lot first or just have a memory build up on how structure works - they are just not that aware of it.
Last but not least it will save money and time on editing if you have not to go back to the beginning because you run into a dead end you cannot get out of.
Thanks Nicole. I can see what you're saying in that the order is really important. In planting evidence and in the criminal procedure. I've done a lot of research but still need to do more to get it all chronologically right and in sync. I do have the story threads I want in my mind, but I do think some basic outlining anchor points will definitely help. And yeah, you remind me of this ancient Eastern saying: "The weakest ink is stronger than the strongest memory."
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Usedtoposthere said:
I have never outlined, including in complicated mystery/suspense books, and editing generally takes me about three days. I do not throw chapters away or whatever..As the poster above says, though, I think story structure is pretty embedded in my brain. And for my first real deal mystery, I wrote some of the mystery chapters backwards. Starting with the ending and then going back to write earlier and earlier scenes to put in the clues. I have evolved since then I guess and no longer need to do that. You may need to start with more structure for your first foray into the genre.

It also makes a big difference if you are an attorney with courtroom experience. I am fortunate to be able, through connections, to talk with a judge, prosecutor, defense attorney, sheriff's deputy, etc., but I still would never trust my ability to write a full-on courtroom drama. Just courtroom scenes, and basic investigation. (Funnily enough though, I used to be a legal editor. I copy edited all of California Rules of Criminal Procedure, for ex. But that sure did not make me an expert!) If you have that experience, though, it may come much more easily.
Thanks used. Yeah, I'm not an attorney, and it is a daunting task taking this on. I have decent access to attorneys, and of course there is Reditt and other forums to ask questions. But what I've found is that the full-on courtroom dramas (not that I could write one--I couldn't) are not to my liking. They seem to emphasize the "legal" in legal thriller, whereas the legal thrillers I like emphasize the "thriller" part. I've read some legal thrillers that didn't have a single courtroom scene. And others that were all in the courtroom from start to finish. I'm not going to cop out and write a regular thriller under the guise of a legal thriller, but I will definitely be leaning more to the thriller than the legal end.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
LDB said:
For those of us who don't write, what is pants, other than what you put on in the morning?
LOL Pantsing is writing by the seat of your pants. No outline. You just start with a blank page and trust your imagination to supply what you need until you're done.
 

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I suppose your process might be a bit different with a more or less plot-heavy book, but IME, your process is your process. If you're a pantser, trying to outline is going to be a struggle and visa versa. It doesn't really matter what the genre is or what people think you should do.
 

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I use to be a criminal trial attorney and now I specialize in research and legal writing, so I'm very comfortable writing courtroom fiction because I write what I know which is noir/crime/legal fiction.  I’m not a pantser because I've been trained from law school forward to be an outliner.  I've written 1 trilogy, so I'm still fairly new and significantly less experienced than most people here, but this is my experience so far. 
I start with the twist, and then I write the story around the twist.
Even though I write about crime, I try to avoid violence, so it takes a lot of planning to raise tension or resolve predicaments without always resorting to violence, so it's helpful for me to create a roadmap, which is my outline, checking off the boxes along the way of how I get to the twist, and then continue on the road map checking off the boxes of how I resolve the story after the twist.  I do this because that's just the way I am, and also because I think there are some genres that are less forgiving when there are plot holes or stories that require an illogical leap in reasoning at the conclusion of the book and I think legal thrillers is one of them.
That's what works for me, but it won't work for everyone.  Ultimately you'll end up doing what works best for you.
 

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Discussion Starter #17
Crystal_ said:
I suppose your process might be a bit different with a more or less plot-heavy book, but IME, your process is your process. If you're a pantser, trying to outline is going to be a struggle and visa versa. It doesn't really matter what the genre is or what people think you should do.
Yeah. Thanks Crystal. It is a struggle for me to outline, and the books I outline end up being really short (too short).
 

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Discussion Starter #18
cdk said:
I use to be a criminal trial attorney and now I specialize in research and legal writing, so I'm very comfortable writing courtroom fiction because I write what I know which is noir/crime/legal fiction. I'm not a pantser because I've been trained from law school forward to be an outliner. I've written 1 trilogy, so I'm still fairly new and significantly less experienced than most people here, but this is my experience so far.
I start with the twist, and then I write the story around the twist.
Even though I write about crime, I try to avoid violence, so it takes a lot of planning to raise tension or resolve predicaments without always resorting to violence, so it's helpful for me to create a roadmap, which is my outline, checking off the boxes along the way of how I get to the twist, and then continue on the road map checking off the boxes of how I resolve the story after the twist. I do this because that's just the way I am, and also because I think there are some genres that are less forgiving when there are plot holes or stories that require an illogical leap in reasoning at the conclusion of the book and I think legal thrillers is one of them.
That's what works for me, but it won't work for everyone. Ultimately you'll end up doing what works best for you.
Thanks, cdk, and thanks for sharing your process.

I think there are some genres that are less forgiving when there are plot holes or stories that require an illogical leap in reasoning at the conclusion of the book and I think legal thrillers is one of them.
Agree. This ^ is what got me asking about pantsing or outlining.
 

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I do both.

I 'pants' the first draft, and then apply formal structure in revision.

It's daunting to begin without a road map, but humans are hardwired to understand, and replicate, story/plot structure. Trust this innate ability. It's intimidating, and requires 'letting go', but it gets me from A-to-B faster than if I outline first.
 

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Discussion Starter #20
Corvid said:
I do both.

I 'pants' the first draft, and then apply formal structure in revision.

It's daunting to begin without a road map, but humans are hardwired to understand, and replicate, story/plot structure. Trust this innate ability. It's intimidating, and requires 'letting go', but it gets me from A-to-B faster than if I outline first.
Thanks Corvid. I like your way of thinking about it.
 
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