Is winging it completely alright when you are just writing the first draft of a soon-to-be and possibly complex novel?

Everyone, thank you all for the comments.

Yeah, for first drafts I usually only have a rough concept. I plan things out more as I go, but I start off pantsing it.


I research as I go, on ‘as needed’ basis. I am categorically against writing a setting book prior to writing a story. But if I need information, I will do reading to make sure the book wouldn’t have something I can’t fix. For example, I changed outline in The Centaur’s Tomb and wrote dialogue differently, as well as set up the excavation differently, after I looked through the history of Elbrus’ eruptions.


Before I begin my usual lengthy post, I wanted to talk a bit about winging it in general as—hypothetically speaking—outcomes vary upon the writer.

There’s a lot of writers out there who will wing their story but have never actually finished one before (for various reasons). Winging it can damage your chances at finishing a book sometimes because many writers will say they’re stuck or get bored when they can easily outline the story where they don’t get stuck and do get excited for it. If you’re going head-on into a complex story and trying to wing it when you’ve never finished a book before, there’s a good chance you’ll fail.

Now, some people want to wing a story, regardless of its complexity, but have never written a book before. If you’ve never written a story before, you could try to wing it to see if it’ll work for you. If you find yourself in the same circumstance as others who’ll be like “I’m stuck” or “I’m bored,” then winging it isn’t either for you or you need to outline and get some books under your belt before you can try again.

Some writers are natural pantsers where they can easily discovery write without running into major problems that stops them from writing their story. But other writers may need to walk first before they run, you know? They may need to understand the craft of writing such as how to create a story with the subplots and the main plot and climax and downfalls and whatnot… and write it all as an outline (detailed or vague) and then write it as a story before they can just open a blank document and go for it without knowing anything at all.

Personally, this has been me. I started writing by winging it all. But I never finished a book. Then I decided to outline (a mixture of vague and detailed) the first couple of books, got those finished, and now I’m capable of making a simple, few sentence outline and winging the rest of the story. After learning how to get through scenes and the three-story act, I found a balance and stuck to it.

But besides all of that… could you potentially write a complicated story with a complex world and characters without outlining? In theory, yes.

Many writers do write their complicated worlds and characters without knowing anything (or barely anything) and get through it. It can be done. However, you’ll be dealing with a lot of plot holes you’ll need to fix that could’ve been prevented—or possibly, even fixed—during the outlining stage. There will also be a lot of other things you’ll need to revise which may include extensive research (which, if done in the beginning during the outline, wouldn’t cause a lot of pauses within your daily writing/revising sessions).

But, at the end of the day, it’s perfectly okay to write an elaborate story with no research involved in the beginning of the process. It may be a lot more of a headache if it’s not planned enough to know where you’re going, but it’s doable. After all, everyone has their own processes and it’s not always the “traditional way.”

Technically, I discovery wrote the majority of my YA sci-fi fantasy novel… which is very complicated. I did write the beginning and part of the middle’s outline ahead of time, and it was pretty detailed, but I never finished it when I started writing. Then my computer wigged out and deleted the outline. It took me a month to write it and I didn’t want to take longer to rewrite and add more to it, so I decided to continue the book based on memory and new additions I could use. However, I did know where I was going—in a manner of speaking anyway—because I had the story simmering in my head for years, trying to think of how it could go. So, that alone helped me. :sweat_smile:

But honestly, if you don’t want to research stuff in the beginning, that’s fine. As long as you research (and add it in), that’s all that matters. xD


Oh don’t fret! I am working on a lengthy outline and if I ever get a bit stuck I can always research things.
However, I did finish a novel and this novel I am working on now is purely for my eyes only till I change that.

With the anthology I did wing it in a sense and I was able to finish it. All 71,298 words in total for the first time.

I get what you are saying and I feel like the only complexities that I will have are technology, fighting, and war base. I mean sure I can Google as I write but for the most part I will be winging somethings.

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