Some writers open a blank notebook, or a fresh document on their computers and happily start writing. They don’t outline or plan. Such writers don’t know their character’s back stories or exactly what will happen in the novel. They believe their characters will tell them as they write. These writers write by the seat of their pants. Hence they are called Pantsers.
Other writers know the basic backstory of their characters. Their personality, their appearance, their likes and dislikes. Some even bring their characters to life and feel like they know them as well as they know real people. They could almost tell you their main character’s first kiss or social security number. They have a simple or detailed plot outline. These writers are outliners or planners.
And some writers fall somewhere in between.
What is your outline style? How do you find it?
How to Know Your Outline Style (Planner or Pantser)
Understand Your Personality
A look at some of your personality traits might lead you in the right direction of finding your outline style.
If you like structure and the thought of staring at a blank screen or piece of paper scares you, go ahead and make an outline. If you’re afraid you won’t be able to deviate from your outline, keep it simple. Don’t get attached to it.
If you’ve never written before, and don’t know where or how to start, an outline can do you a lot of good.
Are you adventurous and spontaneous? If the idea of an outline seems like an unnecessary extra step and you just want to hit the ground running, don’t bother with the outline. Get writing and see what you come up with!
Experiment Both Styles
The best way to know your outline style is to experiment.
Always been afraid to write without an outline? Give it a go. See what you learn about your character as you write. See what spontaneous events occur in your story. See what surprises the characters have for you.
Never bothered to outline? Too eager to just get writing? Don’t want to limit your creativity? Try outlining at least the basics. See if a basic outline helps you avoid plot holes and characters that aren’t developed.
I’ve always considered myself a Pantser. But my first novel had a lot of plot holes and weak characters. For my second novel that I’ll be starting soon, I have a basic outline and I know my characters motivation, and their strengths and weaknesses. I thought outlining would squander my creativity. I have a hard time deviating from a plan I’ve worked hard to create.
But even during the outlining process I found myself discovering things about my characters. And since my outline is basic and didn’t take long to make I won’t be devastated if my characters take my plan in a different direction.
By understanding my personality and trying both styles, I learned that my outline style is a bit of both.
What is your outline style?