Outlining Fit for a Pantser – Plotting Technique

in #writing5 years ago

In the writing world, there are those who write spontaneously, without a plan, going along for the ride as the characters come to life and the story “writes itself.” (It might start that way, but it’s always work.) These are called “Pantsers.” No plan, just write.

I started out writing this way. It’s fun, but it’s also helpful to know where you’re going.

“Plotters,” on the other hand, range from those who work from a rough outline to those who have spreadsheets of data, character write-ups, beat sheets, and all kinds of other useful ways to plan where their story is going. Though I think this is a great idea in theory, I’ve never been that organized.

I do like to have a rough outline, though, and jot down ideas as they come. At the writers’ conference I attended a week ago, I learned a great technique from authors Delilah Dawson and Kevin Hearne, which I’ll share with you here.



Takeaways from the Surrey International Writers’ Conference (Part 2)

Quick Outlining Technique

I attended a workshop at the Surrey International Writers’ Conference last weekend called “Ideas Into Plot: Thunderdome,” presented by Delilah S. Dawson and Kevin Hearne. They’re both great writers. Smart, and hilarious.

They gave us some tips of how to come up with plots, then took ideas from the crowd and started plotting a book. We ended up with a gothic fantasy set in an abandoned strip mall, with the main character a non-binary fae octopus shapeshifter, and their friends: a lawyer trapped in a puppet’s body, and the ghost that haunts the bookstore.

There was much laughter involved.

What I liked about the plotting technique they used was its simplicity. Kevin and Delilah basically wrote a paragraph for each chapter, aiming to get an idea for fifteen chapters (even though the book would likely have thirty, those can come later). Each chapter idea needed to advance the main character 's goal, have internal and external conflict, and tension.

Yesterday, I woke up with a new story idea, so I’m using this outlining technique to get a feel for the plot, the worldbuilding, and my new character(s). Rather than pantsing through a fog, blindly trusting that the story will work out (and possibly writing myself into a corner), I’m liking the challenge and stability of this plotting process.

I might not stick with the ideas I come up with, but at least I have a road map to guide me, and a chance to get a big-picture view of the story at the beginning, when it’s easier to make changes. I’m glad I’m embracing at least a little bit of planning. It will save me some grief in the long run, and hopefully make editing a little easier.


Are you a writer? Pantser, plotter, or somewhere in between? If you have techniques you like to use to organize your story ideas, please share!

Thanks for reading!

Whatever happens, keep singing your song!

Peace. @katrina-ariel

Katrina Ariel
Top photo by Kaitlyn Baker/unsplash

Author bio: Katrina Ariel is an old-soul rebel, musician, tree-hugging yogini, and mama bear to twins. Author of Yoga for Dragon Riders (non-fiction) and Wild Horse Heart (romance), she's another free-spirit swimming in the ocean of life. Check out her music here: https://choon.co/artists/katrina-ariel/


Katrina’s writing website

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🙈 OMG... Im such a Pantsers 😁 lol
I never can plan... I just start writing and the ideas grows as I write my posts... Always write my posts In that moment but I agree... Its fun and I never know myself when or How it Will end 😜 lol
BUT... That works for me in a post, but as I writer like you... I guess having a plan is good and knowing where you want to go.
A little mix of both Mabye? 😉

I love how you got so much from that writing conference and tips are always a welcome thing as we can try it out and take The pieces that fits us. Loved reading this and LOVE YOU 🤗🌹💋

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I'm a total pantser when it comes to posts and poems. I start with an idea, or a line, or a feeling, and everything grows from there. When it comes to writing full-length novels, though, a plan is really helpful! :)

Thanks for your sweet, thoughtful comment. The conference was helpful in so many ways, but especially in giving me hope and the courage to just keep writing! Friends sure help. ;) Much love!!!

This was such an interesting read, I am not a writer but for my posts I am definitely a Panster just making it up as I go along

Thank you! I agree, for my posts I just write and see what comes. :)

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I like both things, I used to write a lot and it was very much go with the flow but I enjoy when a book gives me more background and for that you need to plot!

Yes! I love flowing with what comes, but for a full-length novel having a plan is sooooo helpful!

Pantser! Panster here! I love writing and don't do it enough. Sooo many ideas, and completely unsure of which one to start with next.

That sounds like a really fun way to build out a story concept and some characters! Character building for me is always the most difficult; trying to come up with someone believable and likeable (or unlikeable as the case may be). I think when I hit that first "I need this character" moment I quit pantsing and start planning, and then... stop.

Maybe I just need more pants.

I'm glad you shared this on #pypt. It's inspiring me to pick up pen and paper again, so to speak.

I'm so glad this helped inspire you to write! I love pantsing, in that I love letting an idea take me away with itself, but it was neat to try this outline on a possible idea and then realize I didn't actually want to roll with it. I saved myself time, and now I'm onto a bright shiny new idea that is way better! Thanks for the thoughtful comment. :)

It sounds like a very meaty conference and I'm sad I didn't get to go. But I marked the dates on my calendar for the one next year, and put the April cruise on my long list. These kinds of meetups are absolute gold mines for writer folks like us.

They really are! I hope you go next year. It's amazing and I'm hoping to make the conference a yearly event for me. :)

Anyone who has read posts on my STEEM Blog, know that writing is not my great talent. I have difficulty placing my ideas into the written word. I am grateful that there are those that have the knack for writing as I love to read.

I am thankful that this post was shared on @shadowspub's #PYPT Podcast. Thank you for your writing.

Thank you for your kind comment! Part of writing is just communicating your individual voice, and you have that, Sarge. You also have a compassionate soul, and that goes a long way to make the world a better place.

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