Are you an outliner or a “pantser”? What is a “pantser”, you may be wondering? Well, a “pantser” is someone who writes “by the seat of your pants”. In other words, they sit down and just start the story with very little planning or without developing any kind of written road map to follow. Which one are you?
I’ve always been a “pantser” myself. Everything I have written over the years has been done by the seat of my pants. And, guess where all of those stories are — in a box — most of which are unfinished and all are unpublished. Being my toughest critic, I didn’t think any of the finished ones were worthy of submission for publication, and the ones that are unfinished, are unfinished because I lost my way and the plot line faltered. As a very creative person, I do not want to do anything that would stifle my creativity, as that is so important in writing. Therefore, I refused to do an outline. I felt it was too businesslike, too structured and too formal and, therefore, it would kill my creativity and the story would fail a-gain.
Then I read Outlining Your Novel by K.M. Weiland, available at Amazon.com both in paperback and Kindle. I have the Kindle edition and I devoured that book, while taking copious notes. It was a wonderful tool to help with my writing as it showed me that outlining doesn’t have to be the formal Roman numerals and lower case letters that we learned in high school. You can think outside of the box and create outlines that encourage your creativity!
K.M. Weiland suggested, for visual learners (which I am one), to use colored note cards pinned to a bulletin board instead of putting your outline on your computer, or you may want to use the extensive sketching and planning method. She suggests that we never be afraid to experiment. She discussed “Different Types of Outlines”: The standard “list” outline, Mind maps, Pictorial outlines, the map, and the Perfect Review.
The other great thing about this book is that she does a brief interview of different authors at the end of each chapter, asking them about their outlining process and what they consider the greatest benefit and the biggest pitfall of outlining. She also asks them about “pantsing.
I learned the true value of the tool of outlining and how truly helpful it is to writing a good story with a tight plotline. Through this book, I also learned the importance of spending a lot of time on the planning of your story and the value of lots of pre-writing for your story — things like Character Questionaires for main characters, the importance of knowing your main character(s)’ back story, brainstorming, free writing, etc.
I highly recommend this book, and I can say that, after reading this book, I highly recommend outlining. I am currently working on my outline and character questionaires and I haven’t hit writer’s block or a dead end yet. I believe using some, not necessarily all, of the things K.M. Weiland writes about in this book, will end or, at least seriously decrease, bouts of writer’s block.
Give an outline a try!