Outlining?? But I’m A Pantser!!!

I know. I can’t believe I’m saying this. I am a self-professed pantser! I thrill at seeing the story unfold, like I’m reading the book rather than writing it. BUT NaNoWriMo has changed me. Truth. In preparation for my very first Nano attempt, I spent a couple weeks thinking the story alllll the way through.

  • I knew I would have roughly 300 pages at the end of my tale.
  • I knew I liked short 8-10 page chapters.
  • I know those break down to roughly 2K words.
  • I knew I should plan about 30 chapters based on the above stats.

Based on this, I started planning.

  • I wrote Chapter 1, 2, 3, etc down a sheet of notebook paper and then thought up a sentence to summarize what mini episode would unfold within.
  • I went back and added details, highlight, scenes etc that should be included under each heading.

Then, I waited.

On November 1st, I started writing. Let me tell you, the preparation has made all the difference. Finding time to write the minimum 1,677 words every single day for a month is tough enough. I can’t imagine trying to make the scraps of time I catch useful ones if I didn’t have a map to guide me through the story. Now, I pull out my notebook and begin to type. I check mark off the smaller ideas as I get them into my script and I ex out the chapters as I finish them up. Seeing the notebook filling with exes makes me happy and confident. I look forward to beginning the next idea and logging my new word count into the NaNoWriMo site each day. We may only be one week in, but I’ve already learned something valuable from this experience. No more pantsing when it counts. For deadlines, I will always plot. Plotting can be done anywhere and then the writing time can be spent writing. I’m so glad for this change of heart because I have plenty of deadlines ahead of me in 2012. I hope I’ve given someone out there an idea or at least a little something to think about. This practice has done wonders to relieve the stress so easily associated with writing for a deadline!

So, do tell….what works for you?

11 comments to Outlining?? But I’m A Pantser!!!

  • “Plotting can be done anywhere and then the writing time can be spent writing.” I agree completely! I participated in NaNo last year, but didn’t make it to 50,000 words, as I started on a whim and had no idea where I was going. Aimless writing doesn’t work for me. I just finished that story a few weeks ago, and still didn’t make it to 50k.

    This year, I spent time developing ideas, characters, and scenes, and my writing time is being spent writing. Result? Epic word count each day, but without the exhaustion from trying to plot and write at the same time. It’s so much easier now.

    Thanks for the post!

  • Scrivener is a writing program that works exactly the way you just described…but does a whole lot more. You can keep all of your research in your project folder. You can create profiles for your characters and settings. You can create individual documents for your scenes and then move them around as you need to.

    Best of all, when you’re done, you can click a button and have it save in standard manuscript format. (It works in PDF, but you still have to tweak if you want to export to a word processor.

    I highly recommend it.

  • I am a heavy outline writer. I blogged about the general outlining process I use a few weeks ago. I like to start with note cards and then move forward to a notebook. Even with outline planning there is plenty of room to let the stories and characters develop on their own.


  • I really need to do better outlining. Can you teach me?! Lol. But seriously, I have such a hard time outlining. My brain doesn’t want to sit and focus it all out. But this sounds like it really words. And seeing those checks of accomplishments I’m sure is a huge confidence booster.

  • Keisha

    I never use to outline, now I think it helps me especially when I am stuck in scenes, with the outline I am finding it easier to come up with things that will advance the initial plot, and what I do as well is do a rough draft of my novel GMC (Goal Motivation Conflict) of the main characters knowing that helps me stay on track.

    I wrote my first novel on a whim queried it which is a typical mistake newbie writers make and the end result no luck, so I outlined the story and rewrote it, and its so much better, I did use a few scenes from the former version (never delete anything you never know when you can use it again)

  • I pantsed my way to 50k last year and plan to do the same this year.

  • I started NaNo with a 10 page lo-ong synopsis. It still feels like a lousy first draft … but at least I have a road map, so I know where’ I’m going. I know the story I’m working on is solid and a lot of the core elements — inciting incident, lie, truth, black moment — are there and waiting to be fleshed out.

  • Need firm outline to keep pants from crashing and burning. Wish I heard about NaNo sooner. Will do it next year! Good luck to all!…:)

  • I can relate! I’ve done NaNo for 5 years, but this was the first time I actually outlined. I prided myself on my ability to “pants” my way through a story. But after going through an MFA program and really thinking about the benefits of outlining, I decided to prepare myself this year. I didn’t do an exhaustive outline, but I did lay out scenes so I know where I’m going with the story every time I sit down to write. That alone has been the biggest benefit. I’m still discovering the story as I write it, but with an outline I waste less time meandering and stressing out over what comes next. I’m already getting ready to do a more comprehensive outline for my next project, which is brewing in the back of my brain as I work on NaNo. :)

  • Oh, outlining. Something I always tell myself I’ll do and never actually do it. I’m happy it’s working out for you, it really means all the difference when you’re under pressure (and given that you work, have two young children and a husband, well, I’d say you’ve got plenty of pressure on its own, lol). Looking forward to hearing more about your NaNo experience :)

  • Pantsing works for me. And when I get stuck I just take my hubby out for a glass of wine and we plotstorm.

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