Saturday, January 9, 2016


By June Shaw

Novelists may be the only people who know what I’m talking about, but they do know. And most of them can respond yes or no or both.

It took awhile in my writing career before I understood what this meant. Once I did, I realized I was a pantser.

Many others, it seemed, were the opposite: They were outliners.

I had no idea how I would outline a novel before I even started writing it, but then I discovered a huge number of highly successful authors did that. Soon I determined that I had been doing both. I did outline some major sections of the novels I began to write. I filled in the scenes by the seat of my pants, meaning I decided what came next as I went.

Outlining, I found, really did help structure my novels. It directed a path for my stories without taking away any of the creativity, all the while helping me write faster.

What about you?

Do you discover your story as you write, or do you have the whole story planned out before you type in your title? What do you find helps best? Why do you choose one or the other?

I’d love to get feedback from other others—and maybe those who don’t write books but read them have some idea of they believe would work best.

As always, thanks for sharing your ideas!



Jackie King said...

Enjoyed your post, June. I'm a panster, who wishes she were an outliner. I've tried and tried, but for me outlining just doesn't work.

Bill Kirton said...

I've always been a pantser, June. In fact, a recent experience with my WIP showed me why. There are 2 main threads which, I suddenly realised, were both coming to a head at the same time and there were parallels between them which I hadn't planned. It changed the way I was writing about them and (I hope) made each stronger. Then a character who'd not featured very much said something which suddenly threw a light on the crime and helped make the resolution of it much stronger and more authentic. I always trust my characters to take me where I need to go. The only time I didn't was when I imposed my will on the characters in a radio play to suit what I thought of as my 'vision'. It was reviewed by a well-known reviewer in a quality journal and he review began 'This is a tiresome play about tiresome people'. Anmd I agreed with him.

June Shaw said...

Thanks, Jackie. I'm trying to outline more, too. Sure hope it works out.

June Shaw said...

Bill, it's wonderful that a character who hadn't been important suddenly helped and turned your story in a new direction. Trusting your characters to take you where you need to go is wonderful. I think non-writers would have no idea what we're talking about when we say things like that, but it is a great thing to happen to our writing.

ABDeb said...

I'm a pantser who also outlines things. The reason I am a pantser has eluded me for a while until I realized how much of my stories are in my head. This does create the unfortunate expectation of it all flowing out in one glorious computer session. Unfortunately, being a pantser has often led to me running out of steam, so I have incorporated planning as a rule. But I have yet to work in a very linear fashion, and rely more on unconventional methods of building worlds and character. I'm working on a murder mystery now (my first ever, at the age of 20!), and having a fairly rough idea of the victim and the first few chapters, I let myself write a chapter which was good. I wikl now go back and sew up the plot, possibly using a colour-coded flow chart. But I feel more confident with some chapters behind me. For a romance short story I am writing, I am struggling to plan- literally staring at a nearly empty notebook, and filling it with functional words (i.e- character names), to make it look like I am doing something. But I literally have no clue and might need to watch an episode of the show or read something else before starting. Very hectic- but I do pants along.