From Pantser to Planner: Know Where Your Story Goes with a Story Outline

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Are you a pantser or a planner? If you’re a writer, you’ve probably heard these terms before. A “pantser” is someone who writes by the seat of their pants, with no real plan or outline in mind. On the other hand, a “planner” is someone who meticulously plans and outlines their story before they start writing.

Both approaches have their merits, but have you ever found yourself getting lost in your own story? Maybe you started out with a clear idea of where you wanted your plot to go, but somewhere along the way, things got messy and you found yourself struggling to tie up loose ends.

That’s where a story outline comes in. It can be a helpful tool for both pantsers and planners alike. For pantsers, it can provide a loose framework to help keep your story on track. For planners, it can help you see the big picture and make sure all your plot points are leading toward a satisfying conclusion.

Let’s explore the benefits of using a story outline, no matter what your writing style is. We’ll also provide tips and tricks for creating an effective outline, including how to identify your story’s major plot points, how to organize your ideas, and how to use your outline to stay on track and avoid writer’s block.

Whether you’re a seasoned pro or just starting out on your writing journey, knowing where your story goes is essential for creating a compelling and satisfying narrative. So, let’s dive in and discover how a story outline can help you get there!

Loose is More: The Seven Story Points Every Planner Needs to Know

If you’re a planner, you probably already know the benefits of having a clear outline before you start writing. However, it’s important to keep in mind that your outline should be a loose guide rather than a rigid roadmap.

Here are seven key story points that planners should consider when creating a loose outline for their story:

  1. The hook: Your opening should grab your reader’s attention and make them want to keep reading. Think about what will intrigue your readers and draw them in.
  2. The inciting incident: This is the event that sets your story in motion. It’s the thing that disrupts your protagonist’s normal life and sets them on a new path.
  3. The first plot point: This is where your protagonist commits to their new path and starts working towards their goal. It should be a point of no return.
  4. The midpoint: This is where things start to get more complicated for your protagonist. They may face setbacks or obstacles that make them question whether they can achieve their goal.
  5. The second plot point: This is another point of no return, where your protagonist faces their biggest obstacle yet. It should be a turning point that sets up the climax.
  6. The climax: This is the moment of highest tension and drama in your story. Your protagonist will face their greatest challenge yet, and the outcome will determine whether they achieve their goal.
  7. The resolution: This is where your story wraps up and your protagonist either achieves their goal or learns an important lesson.

By keeping these seven story points in mind, you can create a loose outline that will guide you as you write without stifling your creativity. Remember, your outline is there to help you stay on track, but you should also be open to letting your story evolve as you write. The most important thing is to keep moving forward and tell the story that you want to tell.

What’s in Your Pantser Head? Tips for Writing without an Outline

If you’re a pantser, you may not have a clear idea of where your story is going when you sit down to write. That’s okay! Many writers like this method because it lets them get to know their characters and plot without feeling like an outline is holding them back.

However, writing without an outline can also be challenging. You may find yourself getting stuck or losing sight of the big picture. Here are some tips for filling in the blanks and keeping your story on track:

  1. Know your characters: Even if you don’t know exactly where your plot is going, you should have a clear idea of who your characters are and what motivates them. This will help you make decisions about their actions and reactions throughout the story.
  2. Write in scenes: Rather than trying to write your story in a linear fashion, focus on writing individual scenes as they come to you. You can always fill in the blanks later.
  3. Keep a loose timeline: Even if you’re not outlining your story, it’s still helpful to keep a loose timeline of events. This will help you keep track of what’s happening and when, and will prevent you from getting lost in the details.
  4. Stay open to new ideas: One of the benefits of writing without an outline is that you can be open to new ideas as they come to you. If you get stuck, try brainstorming different scenarios and see where they take you.

By following these tips, you can keep your story moving forward and prevent yourself from getting stuck. Remember, even though you’re not working with an outline, it’s still important to keep the big picture in mind. Ultimately, you want your story to have a satisfying resolution and make sense as a whole.

Know Where You’re Going: Whether You’re a Pantser or a Planner

Whether you’re a pantser or a planner, it’s important to have a clear idea of where your story is going. Planners can use a loose outline as a guide, but it still gives them room for creativity and flexibility. For pantsers, focusing on characters and writing in scenes can keep the story moving forward.

At the end of the day, what’s most important is that you find a writing process that works for you. Some writers thrive with a detailed outline, while others prefer to discover the story as they go. Either way, it’s important to keep the big picture in mind and make sure that all the pieces of your story come together in a satisfying way.

So whether you’re a pantser or a planner, remember to stay true to your own creative process and keep the end goal in sight. Whether you’re writing a short story, a novel, or anything in between, knowing where you’re going is essential for crafting a compelling narrative that readers will love.

Students in Write A Killer Mystery understand that planning helps with faster mystery writing. Knowing where your story is going, whether it’s in your head or meticulously planned by a devoted planner, keeps your mystery on track.  

Photo by Jamie Templeton on Unsplash

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