L. Jagi Lamplighter Interview

L. Jagi Lamplighter Wright, my lovely and talented editor, and an accomplished author herself, recently gave an interview to the fine lads at Geek Gab. If you're an aspiring author, or even an old hand who knows there's always room to grow, don't miss this writing advice from one of the best!

If you want an example of Jagi's world-class editing skills, check out our first collaboration, the Campbell Award-worthy Nethereal.

Nethereal - Brian Niemeier


  1. Funny that she gave the advice about not outlining. Not over-outlining, really. I've been struggling with exactly that recently.

    I'm a very inconsistent writer (productivity-wise) and I've been trying to nail down a process that actually works reliably. Since I had great success in NaNoWriMo doing detailed daily outlines near the end---when I had to write 3000+ words a day to catch up---I thought that was a good way forward, even though I was never an outliner before.

    But my output the last few months has been dismal. I think I've written like 10,000 words this year so far. The problem is exactly what she says: once I figure out the complete plot and a bunch of details ahead of time, it's hard to write because I lose interest. I can grind it out if it's a short story, but it doesn't come easily. I have a dozen great 15-25k word stories plotted out and developed but I just can't bring myself to write them.

    Back to the old "only plan a few thousand words ahead but have a general idea of how it's going to end" method I suppose.

    1. Some writers are natural outliners. Others are natural pantsers. A defining lament of the latter is that they lose interest in writing once they "know how the story goes". These are the writers who feel like they have a story inside burning to get out, and writing the outline satisfies that urge.

      An outliner approaches writing a novel like a builder approaches a construction project. It's not enough for me to draw up the blueprints. I've got to see the job through until that book is standing tall, shiny, and proud amid the KDP skyline.

      In contrast to panters, if I don't have those blueprints, the final product will be the literary equivalent of the house Ned's neighbors built.

      I suspect Jagi advised against outlining because John doesn't outline. Then again, he's John.

      Now that I've worked as a professional editor for a year, I can tell you that, at minimum, every new author needs to outline.

      If you're a pantser, don't worry. I've got you covered. Go ahead and pants your first draft. Then, once you've got the story off your chest, go back and write an outline to impose some order on the chaos. Do your revisions using the outline as a guide.

    2. I have to outline. Otherwise the story peters out in the middle of nowhere. Only when I grasp it by its scrawny neck and force it to prove it has an ending do I have any hope to getting to the end.

      It's Pratchett's Valley Full of Clouds, only instead of building a path through it, first I blaze the intended path, then I build it. There are always alterations -- this vale full of blooming orchids is too pretty to miss, and that slope is not sturdy enough for the foundation -- but still, I blaze it first.

  2. Brian.
    I'm a panster :) so how should i outline and what's an effective means to go about it?
    I've tried outlining but my naturally eceative and rebellious side likes to poke the belly. Eternal tension


    1. First off, you don't do it up with Roman numerals and indents, like your teachers liked. (Unless that floats your boat.)

      I number mine, but that's so it's easier to slip things in place when I realize they are needed earlier.

      I take notes and noodle around until I figure out the opening scene. Then I write it down. And then the next.

      I've found that a scene-by-scene outline is necessary to make sure I'm not shirking on something that's going to a plot problem.