Should you plot your novel, or dive in and pants it? What is the right way to outline? What is a plot, even?
“Plot is people. Human emotions and desires founded on the realities of life, working at cross purposes, getting hotter and fiercer as they strike against each other until finally there’s an explosion—that’s Plot.” —Leigh Brackett
There are as many ways to write a book as there are books. Notice I said “books”, and not writers. Because it is likely that every book you write will be a little different. Sometimes your method for getting it done can be radically different from what you’ve done in the past. Because of this, it is good to always be learning new methods you can try for building your story’s structure.
But I just want to pants it!
I know, I know. And you can do that! There is no shame in your game! You do what works for you! But in your journey to become a better writer, it’s always good to be trying new things. If you haven’t tried writing with an outline because you’re afraid it will be a nightmare, I say embrace your fears, my friend! Give new strategies a try. You don’t have to write out every detail of the story, you can write as much as works for you. Writing down the major points of the story can be a great way to help you get where you want to go as you pants your way along.
You can outline before you ever start, of course. That is when most people think outlining happens. However, that’s not the only way to do this. As I said, there are as many ways to write a book as there are books. If you are currently stuck in the middle of a story, a great way to find your way out is to stop what you’re doing and look at the story with fresh eyes. Writing an outline is one way to go about doing that.
Let go of your notions about how difficult this must be, or that it will be a nightmare. Remember: you love writing! And you can love outlining, too. In fact, when you find a strategy that works for you and your story, it can be a thrill ride!
Here are a few resources for finding a new way to write up your next outline.
Plot Your Novel with Libbie Hawker
This book gives you a way of thinking about your story as a whole, and a method for writing up an outline in a day or two. It’s direct and gives you a way to follow along and get your outline done. If you are still unsure whether you want to try plotting (instead of flying by the seat of your pants) there’s also the obligatory beginning chapter answering your “Why?”.
When it comes to writing books, are you a “plotter” or a “pantser?” Is one method really better than the other?
In this instructional ebook, author Libbie Hawker explains the benefits and technique of planning a story before you begin to write. She’ll show you how to develop a foolproof character arc and plot, how to pace any book for a can’t-put-down reading experience, and how to ensure that your stories are complete and satisfying without wasting time or words.
Hawker’s outlining technique works no matter what genre you write, and no matter the age of your audience. If you want to improve your writing speed, increase your backlist, and ensure a quality book before you even write the first word, this is the how-to book for you.
Take off your pants! It’s time to start outlining.
Plot Your Novel with YouTube
YouTube is a very accessible source of information on plotting. Sometime it’s just less intimidating to sit down and watch something than it is to crack a book. That’s a fine way to do things, too! Luckily, there are plenty of resources on YouTube for this. If you search yourself, you’re bound to find an overwhelming number of results. Here are three I can recommend for you.
- A Six Part Playlist on How To Outline Your Novel from Chris Fox.
- Jenna Moreci has a two part series on How To Outline Your Novel.
- If you want to think a little farther ahead, this is a class Susan Kaye Quinn gave on how to outline a series.
Parting Thoughts On Plot
If you’re feeling intimidated by plotting your novel, don’t be. Keep in mind the wise words of Ray Bradbury…
“Remember: Plot is no more than footprints left in the snow after your characters have run by on their way to incredible destinations.” —Ray Bradbury
For more writing tips, check The Midnight Society’s Writer Resources page.