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An Outliner’s Guide to Being a Pantser

by on September 22, 2014
wing chi poon

Is the burst of light first or the backlit images? Image credited to Wing-Chi Poon

As a writer, I consider myself to be an outliner. I will complete a detailed storyline as well as a short character study for everyone who makes an appearance in one my stories. (Yes, I know who they took to prom.) I’ve even added a software writing program to my bullet-pointed checklist of what happens when.

I should be the exact opposite of the pantser. Those who write as the words come to them and churn out a first draft.

But I don’t think we are all that different. Before the outline and before the furious typing, there was the idea.

We knew how it began and we knew how it ended. It was only getting from A to B that separated us.

And in my humble opinion, either we relied more on our quick wit or  our detailed storyboard to get us there. However, we used both used elements of both whether or not we admitted it.

For me, I saw this in my latest work where I had spent several weeks coming up with an outline only to find that that special moment between hero and heroine was something that wasn’t written in my outline. It was something that I had to discover while writing the story. So for the next few chapters, I found myself in full pantser mode as an aspect to my hero’s personality came to life that I had never imagined.

I let myself listen to a character and forgot my outline.

Scary? Yes, but isn’t that what this world is supposed to be about? Those things that challenge us?

So for the pantser out there, challenge yourself to an outline.

And for those drawn to bullet points, don’t be afraid to let your characters take you off course!


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