Outliner or Pantser? It’s one of the most commonly asked questions/timeless debates in the writing community. Each side has its strengths. Each side has weaknesses. I’ve tried both. Here’s what happened to me (and me alone. Not trying to make any sweeping statements here, guys.)
When I was pure panster, I usually ran into a moment like this:To be 150 pages in, only to crash land into the side of an enormous plot mountain kind of stinks. A lot. Oh sure, you crawl your way out, but it soaks up a lot of time, and drains vital confidence.
HOWEVER, the two times I faithfully outlined my entire book before writing, it ended up like this:I’d be all excited while developing the outline, but when time came to actually write . . .it was gone. I’d squandered that heat on the planning phase.
This has led (over the years) to the development of:
The Outline-Pantser Hybrid Method
Step 1: When Shiny New Idea strikes, take time to ponder before writing.
Even for Pantsers, I think it’s a good idea to do this. Daydream about your world, your characters, and possible plot twists. I’m not recommending any single period of time, because some ideas come in more fleshed out than others. Just make sure you have a good grasp on the kind of story you see this becoming. And make sure you have one thing, vital to the OPH Method. . .
Step 2: Wait for that opening scene.
We all know how important the beginning is. Over my years of writing, that has only become more clear. So in this method, you need to have that awesome opener in mind. That scene is going to kick start your enthusiasm.
Step 3: Put your Panster Pants on.
The OPH Method blends the best of each, right? And one of the benefits of being a Pantser is that you really are free to create and fall in love with your story. Work is important, but if there’s too much work at the get go, you may well lose steam.
So once you’ve fleshed out your story a bit in your head, and you have that great opening scene in mind, just go for it. WRITE. Let your imagination free. Go crazy with those first chapters. Fall in love. Be a pantser for all of Act 1. But then. . .
Step 4: SCREECHING halt.
Time to get down to dirty work. Things need to start really getting going now, and we all know how important each chapter is. So, it’s time to outline the rest of the book.
This isn’t an infallible document that must be obeyed slavishly. And it doesn’t have to be incredibly detailed. But now is the time to really make sure you’re on the right track. And to make sure it STAYS on the right track.
I know, I know, it’s hard. But so worth it. And I actually find it a big relief to have a solid outline. I know that every scene I write from here on out will serve a definite purpose. (Often two or three purposes.) And the best part is, you’ve already fallen for this story during Step 3, so the chances of you fizzling out now are slim.
Step 5: Finish the book!!
With your outline in hand, dive back into that baby! Chances are, you’ll be chomping at the bit. So run free, you majestic stallion. And be energized by the notion that all of this work is going pay off in a VERY sturdy rough draft.
So there it is. My humble method for drafting. It’s led to my strongest rough draft to date, and my WiP is going so well, it’s almost scary. Maybe it can work for you, maybe it can’t. Like I said, different things work for different people. But it’s always fun to figure out a way that works great.
How about you? Has your method changed? Have you found your perfect process?