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How A Pantser Outlines: 4 Tips To Get You Writing

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I once had someone of my writing group ask me if I was a plotter or pantser. I didn’t know what the heck they’ were on about at the time. So what is a plotter and a pantser you may ask?

A plotter is someone who plots and writes an outline of their novel, blog post, article, etc. Where is a pantser is someone who flies by the seat of their pants. Someone who kind of goes with the flow and doesn’t make any plans. This isn’t always a good thing to do when you’re planning a business or writing a novel. Don’t get me wrong, some famous authors are pantsers and some write their novels down to the last detail.

I’m kind of somewhere in-between. I usually write some kind of outline and then forget about it. This has proved to be a bad thing for me the second time around. When I was writing my first novel, I spent several years writing and rewriting it and I had a strong plan of who my characters were and what they were about. When I started writing my second novel I wrote a very rough outline then didn’t bother with it.

I thought: I know my characters now since it’s a sequel to my first book and I know what I want this next book to be about. This actually proved to be a big mistake as I often found myself not know what to write and unable to decide what I wanted to happen next. This cost me a lot of wasted time on writing and rewriting. So maybe being a pantser isn’t such a great method for me after all.

Outlining really does help and here’s my method of doing it.

Begin with a concept

Start with a basic concept of what you want the story to be about. For example, a witch who works for a supernatural police force and runs her own investigation team. This is the one idea I had for Denai Touch and the story led from there.

Once I have an idea for a book I write everything down in a notebook and go from there. You don’t have to use a notebook, you could list it all in a word document or create a file and add everything to that so you have all of the information in one place.

Write character biographies

I’ll be writing more about this in tomorrow’s post. But writing a character biography can really help you to get to know your characters. List their name, their age, what they look like, their hobbies etc.

Write down potential plot lines

Once I start getting to know my characters and what they are about scenes usually start running through my mind. So I write possible scenes down. You don’t have to list every single detail. I usually write a bunch of random scenes and string them together later.

Write brief chapter outlines

I have written brief chapter outlines before and this can be a helpful method for many writers. You don’t have to go into huge detail, just list a few things they want to happen in that particular chapter. I roughly write outlines for about 20 chapters. Any more than that and I get bored.

But remember, there is no right or wrong way of outlining the novel. It all depends on the person. I know I probably won’t stick to my outline but it definitely helps to have a guide when you get started to help you along the way.

Are you a plotter or a panster? What methods do you use for outlining?


How to Plot a Story and Outline Without Using a Formula

Outlining Made Simple

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3 thoughts on “How A Pantser Outlines: 4 Tips To Get You Writing

  1. Genesis

    I used to be a pantser, but now do outlines, for the same reason. It’s easy to get bogged down when you have to figure everything out as you go. With an outline, even a basic one, you can pace the story and make sure that everything works smoothly.

  2. Mary, Living a Sunshine Life

    I’m totally a pantser, I even wrote about this same idea back in November for my Sunday NaNoWriMo posts! I basically do what you do, however mine are extremely skeleton because I let my characters guide my writing. I recently had an old lady plant herself in the middle of a chapter and I had no clue who she was or how she’d come in, but she later turned out to be an important player in plot development. She knew better than I did! As far as character biographies, I tend to write those into my first draft as I get to know my characters. When I edit, I have to edit heavily, then make important notes in a notebook later so I can keep all of that information handy. I find that getting to know characters as I go works better than me trying to figure them out out of context. Great tips though!

  3. tiffanyshand


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