• Ashley Nicole

Transitioning from Pantser to Plotter - Learning Outlining

Outlining, for me, was only a vague memory from middle and high school of something I threw together last minute for the teacher to look at and be like, "Okay, you tried, A+." For my writing I never saw the benefit to outlining and so for all the novels I have started I have been a pantser.

What's a pantser?

A pantser is someone who writes in the moment. Someone who doesn't have a clear plan of where their writing is going , just some ideas. Which is totally fine! I actually enjoyed writing my first novel like that because some of the plot twists even surprised me!

However, I am learning there are a lot of different ways to outline other than your traditional skeleton outline from school and some are were neat and helpful. I am also learning the many benefits to outlining.

Allow me to share my new knowledge with you and maybe you'll turn plotter too!

First, let me tell you some benefits I have discovered from outlining.

1. You can finish your writing projects faster

Knowing what you need to write next allows you to do just that, rather than sitting and staring at your blank page thinking, "Where do I go from here?"This helps to alleviate writers' block if that's something you believe in. It can also help with little parts of the story too. For example, in my own writing, I reread my novel after finishing it and putting it away for a few months. At two points in my book I wrote how two characters met for the first time, but it was two very different scenarios. If I had outlined I would have already known how they were going to meet and not have to make it up on the fly, apparently, twice.

2. You can save time revising

If you already know where your writing is going and how your book is going to end then you can drop hints about those things as you go which is something I normally had to do in the revising stage after I wrote the ending. You can also plan ahead to structure your story in a certain way to make the ending come as more of a surprise to your readers!

3. Your quality can improve in your first rough draft

If you already know what you're going to write then instead of focusing on that you can focus on the quality of it. Revising isn't going to go away by outlining, but you know each new draft is better than the last. Dare yourself to image what your final copy would be like if you started with a really great first draft!

So now that you know why you should outline, the bigger question is how do you outline. As I said before, my only idea of outlining was a basic skeletal outline from school, but it turns out there are dozens of different ways you can outline such as:

  • Mind map book outline

  • Simple book outline

  • Chapter-by-chapter outline

  • Sketched book outline

  • Outline with Scrivener

  • Basic outline

  • The skeletal outline

  • Post-it note outline method

  • The snowflake method

  • The skeletal outline

  • Novel outline template

  • The reverse outline

I'm not going to go though each other these in detail, just the bold ones that I like and use, but I wanted to show you that there is more than one way to outline. If min mapping isn't for you try to reverse method. If you're really visual try the post-it notes. Etc. Experiment. Find what works for you.

Mind Mapping

When I first get a new novel idea, which they come to me pretty often anymore, this is one of the first things I do with it. Mind mapping is pretty simple and since you're basically brainstorming it can become a little messy, but for me that is part of the fun! You first start out by putting your main idea in the center of a blank piece of paper. From that you branch off other ideas and get more detailed the more you branch off. This just allows you to brain dump and make connections as you go without having to be very structured about it.

Skeletal Outline

I know, I know, I gave this one a lot of shade in my introduction but it is one I use. After I have my mind map done and it's something I want to turn into a book I outline it. I take the main ideas from the mind map and make them my main bullets. Then all the details from them I make my small bullets. I add details as I go to fill in questions and plot holes. I begin to organize the chaos of the mind map into a structured story line. This gives me my first full look of my potential novel from start to finish.

Post-it Note Outline Method

This is super helpful if you're a visual kind of person, which I most definitely am, and I actually just find it really fun! I carry a pack of sticky notes with me and if I hear a song or a quote that aligns with my story I write it down. If I get a new idea I write it down. I also write down all the major points of my novel, character sketches, etc. I just write down basically everything about my novel that i can on sticky notes and then I stick them to a wall. Since sticky notes are easily movable I'm able to change the flow of my story easily at any given time. I use different colors for different things especially when a point as been completely written. It's a good way to see your stay being completed and make new connections.

Thank you for reading and supporting my blog and overall my writing passion! Now that you've seen my writing process I'm very curious to know about yours! Leave a comment letting me know if you're a plotter or pantser and if a plotter, what type of outlining do you use?