Outlining: From a Pantser’s POV

24 Oct
Outline for NaNoWriMo 2013

Outline for NaNoWriMo 2013

As I’ve talked about before, I’m more of a pantser than a plotter, but I’m trying my hand at outlining this NaNoWriMo. I’ve found more than a few different ways that writer’s outline, including the 3 act structure, Blake Snyder’s “Save the Cat” version, Larry Brook’s version of outlining/plotting from “Story Engineering,” and quite a few other’s. I don’t know which one will work best for me. I’ve tried outlining my novel with each form of outline as I read the various ways, and to tell you the truth–I still don’t know.

I wish I had someone who would do that part for me. I talk. He/she listens and takes notes. I come up with the ideas, the names, the plots, the themes, the B story, the world building, etc. and the other person does the outlining, the making of maps, the creating the world, and then I go in and write the story. Until I’m a famous writer making real money at my profession, the kind of money that would afford me an assistant I don’t see that happening so I’m stuck doing all the nitty-gritty work myself. And to me, that stuff is the nitty-gritty hard work stuff.

The writing isn’t hard. It’s all the crap beforehand that’s hard. At least for me. BUT, last time I really tried to create a novel for NaNoWriMo I got bogged down in the middle, lost in translation, misplaced my muse, and ended up losing horribly all because I didn’t know where I was going with the novel. I had a clear idea when I started. I pantsed. I knew who my character was and what she was doing, and what was supposed to happen, and I started writing. I wrote. She talked and talked, and then before you know it the character had taken over and then I ended up at the midpoint of my novel and I looked up and realized she was fickle and indecisive and had no idea of what she really wanted, “Hey, don’t blame me. You’re the writer!” she said.

Character Outline on the Corkboard in Scrivener.

Character Outline on the Corkboard in Scrivener.

This time that won’t happen. This time I’m plotting. I’m working on my outline. I’ll still stay open to what the main character needs, to what’s going on with the setting, the theme, the plot, the arc of the story and the characters, BUT I will have a map (my outline) to help guide me and keep me headed in the right direction, even if I randomly take a few shortcuts, or a few side roads.

I’m just so thankful to Scrivener. Without Scrivener there is no way I’d be able to create an outline that still allows me freedom to change things around without going absolutely crazy. For allowing me to switch things around in the binder. For enabling me to color code things so it’s more convenient and efficient for me. I LOVE Scrivener. I’m still learning, and I really wish that the Windows version was as fancy as the Mac version. (Hello people, not all of us can afford a Mac or prefer a Mac. I’d have one if I could afford it, even if it meant learning everything all over again.)

So now I’m going to go to bed. It’s almost 4AM (my time) and I’m exhausted. I’ve posted on both blogs now, and I’m ready to fall asleep curled up with my husband’s pillow (that still smells like him) and fall asleep watching something on Netflix–Friday evening can’t get here soon enough–I miss him!


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26 responses to “Outlining: From a Pantser’s POV

  1. Cassidy Frazee

    October 24, 2013 at 8:01 am

    Just to let you know, The L&L people say by this time next year the Windows version will be be at version 2.0, so as good as the Mac version was, as it just went to 2.5. I just realized a little something I can do tonight to help one part of my story.

    Oh, and don’t forget about document notes on the right hand side.

    Liked by 1 person

    • burgesstaylor7911

      October 24, 2013 at 9:38 am

      YAY! I originally watched 3-4 videos about Scrivener before I began using it and was in awe of the icons, and a few other things that the Windows version does not have (insert big fat frowny, pouty face). So it’s good to know that they’re updating the Windows version.
      I’ve been working on the index cards, and now it’s time to start working on the document and project notes. I still have some time before NaNo starts so I’m trying to get it all finished before then. Outlining is hard work. I don’t know how you do such detailed outlining…It would make my head spin. 😀


      • Cassidy Frazee

        October 24, 2013 at 9:50 am

        I started with my first novel, which was really more of a time line because I needed everything to take place over a three-day span. The majority of my outlines are pretty simple: for this novel there is so much going on, I have to keep things straight.

        One of those things is that I have–thinking off the stop of my head–two dozen speaking parts. Some small, some large, some on-stage almost all the time. That means I need to know what those people are doing, and where, and when. Ergo, a lot of figuring out.


  2. Creative Mysteries

    October 24, 2013 at 8:30 am

    Good luck with your NaNoWriMo novel! You may find that having a plan may help you get through the middle of your novel. It’s always great until you reach that point, then things start slowing down. The middle of a novel is like almost reaching the top of a cliff. Once you get through the middle, it’s smooth sailing from there. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • burgesstaylor7911

      October 24, 2013 at 9:41 am

      I sure hope so because I like the creativity of pantsing, but I do like the idea of having a plan to rely on while writing–It’s there if I need it but I don’t have have to use it except as a guide. 🙂 And you’re right, the beginning goes much faster than the middle…and getting through the middle is definitely an uphill battle, at least for me.


  3. caitlinm

    October 24, 2013 at 10:22 am

    I just started using Scrivener for outlining, and so far I’m liking its flexibility a lot. I am planning a really complicated plot with multiple story lines for NaNo (why???) and I like how I’m able to put in the plot points and then be able to move them around later into a better order.

    Liked by 1 person

    • burgesstaylor7911

      October 24, 2013 at 11:07 am

      I think for some of us, anyway, NaNo is about challenging ourselves. I started NaNo so I could get some follow-through. I kept starting novels but I would get discouraged with myself and wouldn’t finish them. I took a long break from writing altogether (about 10 years or more) and then tried NaNo because my husband said, “Just do it,” And I did. I finished the 50K goal but not the novel, but it made me realize I could and that’s what I needed. Now I’m working on challenging myself with outlining, and actually finishing a novel not just the 50K goal. 😀


  4. sknicholls

    October 24, 2013 at 11:23 am

    I am a linear writer and a panster, but I am also finding Scrivener a most useful tool for me right now in changing genres. Writing crime novels has very specific rules and I can easily change scenes around to fit those rules. I love it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • burgesstaylor7911

      October 24, 2013 at 11:49 am

      Me too. I’m a linear writer, and I’ve been a pantser up until now…We’ll see if the outlining really helps or not. I might just chuck the whole thing out the window once I’m actually writing.


  5. Aussa Lorens

    October 24, 2013 at 11:29 am

    You’re totally convincing me I need Scrivener…

    Liked by 1 person

    • burgesstaylor7911

      October 24, 2013 at 11:41 am

      I used MS Word before and it was hard to find things, change things around (near impossible unless you’re a big fan of copy, paste, cut), and I’m not a big fan of creating headers, etc when I’m trying to write (I just want to type it in and have the program do the work, which is what Scrivener does). If you want to try it out they have a special NaNo version that is good until the beginning of December (like the 5th or something)…Good time to try it out. 😀


      • Aussa Lorens

        October 24, 2013 at 2:46 pm

        Interesting! And I HATE having to copy/paste though obviously I do a ton of that. Okay, I think I’ll have to check it out… Early Christmas gift, perhaps…


  6. Jae

    October 24, 2013 at 12:54 pm

    One of these days I’m going to buy Scrivener. Maybe if I win NaNo or something and get a discount. That’s why I like planning things out, so I don’t get stuck wondering what to do. I tried being a pantser once, but I got too frustrated after awhile and had to stop to plot for a bit. I think of plotting as the first rough draft. Clears the clutter so I can write and write and write.

    Liked by 1 person

    • burgesstaylor7911

      October 24, 2013 at 1:18 pm

      That’s how I got Scrivener over the summer, through April’s Camp. I tried the trial version during Camp and bought it right after Camp. It’s the next best thing since coffee and chocolate :D. Once Nano is over I might start using Scrivener for my blog posts.


  7. woodbeez48

    November 5, 2013 at 3:36 am

    Could you tell me how you did the colour coding in your first screen shot at the top of this page? It looks great and I’d love to be able to do that 🙂 Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

    • burgesstaylor7911

      November 5, 2013 at 12:35 pm

      I have Scrivener for Windows. You go into View, Use Label Color In, and then click Binder, Corkboard, Outline, whatever you want the labels to show color in. I color coded my Characters, (her family is labeled one color, her parents another color, her friends a certain color, the antagonist is orange, the chapter’s one color, ideas, etc…) so that when I glanced at the binder or the characters or was in corkboard or outline mode I knew at a glance what I was looking at. I’ve also now color coded certain types of scenes. Hope that helps 😀


      • woodbeez48

        November 5, 2013 at 1:21 pm

        That’s brilliant, thank you. It works on the Mac too. Mine looks lovely now 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • burgesstaylor7911

        November 5, 2013 at 1:51 pm

        Great. 😀


  8. Martin Lake

    March 28, 2014 at 4:10 am

    I enjoyed this post. I also love Scrivener – I’ve just found the colour coding. I love the way you’ve used pictures of people. I’ll borrow that idea!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Burgess Taylor

      March 28, 2014 at 10:27 am

      Thanks. It’s easy to use the corkboard, especially if you have the Mac version, which I don’t but eventually the Windows version will catch up and we’ll be able to move the index cards anywhere we want on the corkboard. I’ve been playing around with it for about 1 year now and I’m still learning things. I’m one of Screvener’s biggest fans. 😀



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