Are You and Outliner or a “Pantser”?

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  And, guess where all of those stories are — in a box — most of which are unfinished and all are unpublished.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!

New Beginnings

It’s nice to be back here again.  I have missed writing here, but life has a way of throwing curves at you sometimes that cause you to change your priorities, at least for a season.  You all know that my family went through a lot of difficulties this summer with the complications that arose through mom’s heart surgery.  Well, when all of that began to settle down, my oldest son injured his leg and required crutches followed by a leg brace and physical therapy for about six weeks.  On his last day of physical therapy, my husband informed me that he is experiencing hip pain and problems from an old injury and today he begins physical therapy, and then last week, I ended up in the ER, for most of one night, with severe abdominal pains.  After some testing, it was determined that I have gall stones and am now on a very strict diet and am scheduled to see a surgeon on October 28th, with the plan of having my gall bladder removed.  However, I have some dear friends who have suggested that I see a naturopathic doctor before having surgery, so I will be seeing her on Tuesday.

I would love to be able to have the problem solved without surgery, if at all possible, but I don’t really know much about naturopathy.  It will definitely be something to learn about and to pray for God’s guidance in deciding which path to follow.

Now, to the topic I try to reserve this blog for, my writing.  Through all of these challenges I have not given up on my writing, even though I have been absent here.  I have been doing A LOT of reading and paying close attention to how authors handle Point of View (POV), as this is an area I have struggled with.  It has become quite clear to me how to handle it so as to have my writing clear and easy to follow.  Another thing that I have recently read is Outlining Your Story by K.M. Weiland.  I have always been a “pantser”  (someone who writes by the seat of their pants), not an outliner because I felt that outlining is detrimental to my creativity.  I was afraid that if I outlined, everything would turn too mechanical and would lose the creativity and emotions so critical to good stories.  However, I have recently felt that maybe there is a way to outline that won’t jeopardize my creativity, so I picked up K.M. Weiland’s Outlining Your Story in hopes of finding a way to do just that, and let me tell you, I was not disappointed.  I devoured this book and took copious notes because she explained how to use an outline to great advantage and to do so without losing your creativity.  In fact, it could very well aid in your creativity.  This book was a blessing for me, especially as she gave specific examples of outlines that could be helpful to visual learners, which I definitely am.  I look forward to start working on an outline for a story very soon, especially as I have just finished a fiction story I was reading, as well.  I don’t feel like I can read a story and work on one at the same time, at least not in the beginning stages.

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Another exciting thing that happened to get my writing brain geared up again is that I am currently teaching a writing class to 3rd through 5th grade students at our homeschool co-op, and I remembered a game I had purchased years ago to help teach my oldest son about story writing when he was about the same age.  I thought it was in the attic, so I asked my husband to help me look for it.  So, that Saturday, we went to the attic and my husband searched through several boxes, to no avail.

However, he did find a box we had put up there about three years ago that we labeled “Kelly’s Writing Stuff”.  I asked him to bring it down, and when he did, I spent the next hour just looking through that box.  It was fantastic!  In the box I found several stories that I had started, in the past, but never finished, as well as ideas for other stories and all of my poetry.  I was so excited!  I had been praying that God would give me my creativity back because I was feeling as though I had lost it during the struggles, and here was a good start on God’s answer to that prayer!

Oh, and by the way, last night, as I was looking for a specific notebook of mine, I found the game I had asked my husband to look for in the attic!

Two weeks ago on a Saturday, the monthly writers’ group that I attend began their new season (they take a break for July and August), and learned some helpful tips on finding time to write, as well as learning to distinguish between goals and desires and whether or not my writing goals are realistic and measurable.  Very helpful stuff!  I am so thankful to have found this writers’ group and am blessed to be starting my second year of participating with them.

This Saturday, I will also be attending a Writers’ Workshop and am excited to do so and to learn more.  I’m sure I’ll come home all fired up for writing a great story!