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What is your outline style—planner or pantser?
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.
Do You Know the Outline Style Best for You? (Planner or Pantser)
The Importance of Knowing Your Outline Style
Knowing your outline style can save you a lot of time during the writing process. If you are a pantser, you won’t want to waste valuable time creating an outline that you won’t end up following. Nor do you want to spend time creating an outline if you are going to feel pressure to follow it because that can cause you to ignore other potentially better ideas.
If you are a planner and don’t make an outline you might struggle to finish your first draft. An outline will be worth the time if it helps you avoid plot holes and other issues that can make revision take longer than it needs to take.
Pros and Cons of Each Outline Style
- You will know how your story will unfold.
- You may be able to write your first draft faster.
- You may avoid extra revision.
- You will spend more time brainstorming before you actually begin writing.
- If you become too attached to your outline you may resist deviations that could be better for your story
- Without an outline to follow, the first draft will be a good chance to explore your story and write whatever idea comes to mind.
- You can start writing immediately.
- You might enjoy the thrill of watching the story unfold as you write rather than knowing how it will end.
- Your first draft might be sloppier than if you had written with an outline.
- You might need to spend more time revising.
- As you explore and discover your story and how the plot unfolds, you will need to be extra vigilant to avoid inconsistencies and you may need to rewrite scenes as you learn more about your story.
How to Know Which Style is Right for You
Know you understand why it is important to know which outline style works best for you, and you know some of the pros and cons of each style. Now Let’s discuss how you know which of the two style is best for you.
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.
Are You a Planner or a Pantser?
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?