Every author has a different method they follow for their pre-writing process. There are those of us that love our detailed outlines, those of us that love to write by the seat of our pants (hence the name “Pantser”), and those of us that like to be caught in between, where maybe an outline gets written but there’s not a lot of detail so the imagination can take flight.
In today’s post, my husband, Bryce, and I have teamed up to talk with you about the pros and cons of outlining vs. pantsing.
Savanna On Outlining
I have always been a planner. When I was a little girl, I refused to go to sleep until my parents described to me our exact plans for the next day. I didn’t want to be spontaneous. I wanted to know everything that was going on.
To this day, I’m still that way (although I’ve relaxed a bit more than my childhood days), and you can easily see that carry over into my writing. I love to have detailed outlines. I love to have handwritten pages full of story setting details and character details and plot details. If I don’t have all of this information in front of me, I feel like I simply can’t write. I don’t know enough about the story, and my mind rebels at the idea of writing by the seat of my pants, so often times I’ll just stare at a blank sheet of paper until I give up and craft an outline.
That being said, there are both pros and cons to being such a planner/plotter, to needing a detailed outline every time I craft a story. I’d love to share some of those with you.
The Pros, in my opinion: If you have all of your information in front of you, you don’t have to worry about inserting a detail about the story world or your characters early on in the story and then not remembering that detail later on and getting confused. If you have an outline, you can easily write the story from Point A (the beginning) to Point B (the ending), and often times you won’t get stuck. If you have an outline, it’s also easier to go through and see if there are any major or minor plot holes that need to be fixed prior, instead of writing the story and only realizing later that you have problems. Finally, I believe an outline keeps one organized and on track, and there’s less major revisions you have to go back and fix in your manuscript when you’re done.
That being said, here are the Cons, in my opinion: Some people find so much organization to be restricting to their creative flow. Some people take an outline and all of the information they have about their story and feel like they have to insert every single detail into their story, which isn’t the case. (If you’ve done this, you’re going to have to revise a lot. You, as the writer, need to know more about your story world and characters than what the readers end up knowing.) Some people take their outline and information and then become perfectionists with it, and that can cause them stress when they’re writing or can even make them feel like they don’t want to write at all.
Bryce on Pantsing:
I’ve always been more of a panster than a plotter, which I find to be a bit funny, honestly. In every other area of life I love analyzing and over-analyzing pretty much every aspect of everything, but when it comes to writing, it’s a totally different story.
I find that I work best when I have a loose structure to write around. I figure out
“landmark” events/scenes that I know will happen, and I write my way through the story with those as my way-points. Everything in between I make up as I go, doing my best to tie everything together. Sure, sometimes this means I have to edit a vast amount of content, like the time I had to completely redo the middle 50% of Claervont’s Cost (the second book in my medieval fantasy trilogy). But to me it leaves me freedom to create what I feel. I enjoy feeling like I’m discovering the story as I go along, rather than following a scripted play-by-play.
Does it mean that there are parts of my rough drafts that are completely ridiculous and have to be taken out later? Absolutely. (Hello, Brundan.) But some of my favorite scenes, and even characters, came as the result of not following an intensive outline, and just following the flow of the story.
Pros of Pantsing:
- More freedom to create the story as I go along
- Easier to write the first draft
- Lets me discover the world/story along with the characters
Cons of Pantsing:
- Usually have a lot of edits to make
- Can be hard to avoid rabbit holes
- Can be difficult to fill “voids” in the story between major events
Which method do you tend to prefer – pantsing or outlining (“plotting”), or somewhere in between? Is there anything you could add to the pros or cons of either section?
Bryce Roberts lives in Utah with his wonderful, crazy wife Savanna and their two cats. He enjoys baseball, skiing, and anything that involves candy. He has two books published and is currently working on his final installment in the Claervont Chronicles series. You can find his books here: http://www.lulu.com/shop/bryce-roberts/claervont-captive/paperback/product-22577806.html and http://www.lulu.com/shop/bryce-roberts/claervonts-cost/paperback/product-22847311.html