Pantsers and Plotters: Should You Outline Your Book or Not?

When it comes to writing a book, there are several different methods to use for getting the words on the page. Depending on your style, the genres you write in, and whether it’s a sequel, your outlining style may change over time and based on the project you’re working on. Midnight Publishing is a Phoenix-based editing, ghostwriting and marketing company with a staff of award-winning editors and writers, and we help our clients with an array of needs—even helping them to outline their book. That’s right; if you have an idea for a book but don’t feel comfortable writing it yourself, or you’ve written content and need help organizing it, Midnight Publishing can help you (contact us today to discuss your project!).

So what do the words “pantser” and “plotter” mean to you? Perhaps not much at this moment, but that’s why we’re going to discuss them in more detail, providing pros and cons of each so that as you continue writing your books, you feel confident that the process is as fruitful and enjoyable as possible!

1. “Pantser” Outlining

Calling this an “outline” method is a bit deceiving, in that the word and style of this process means to “fly by the seat of your pants”—aka, no outlining is done at all! This is most often a choice for authors of fiction, as it allows creativity to really flourish without the hindrances of an outline. Midnight Publishing’s head editor, Ashley R. Carlson, has stated she “pantsed” both books so far in her award-winning The Charismatics series, and both stories went in directions she might never have thought of unless her imagination had been given free rein.

Pros of “Pantsing”:

Creativity is allowed to flourish completely, with no constraints. Some authors find this incredibly freeing and exciting, while others find it intimidating.

Cons of “Pantsing”:

As mentioned above, some authors can become “afraid” of the blank page with no plans on how they will fill it, so they don’t write at all. Another issue with pantsing is that authors may go off on tangents and bunny trails that are not relevant to the overall storyline. This is where Midnight Publishing’s editing comes in—we’ll help you streamline your manuscript so that it’s compelling and achieves the message you’re trying to convey (ask us about our developmental editing/copyediting combo, which is our most popular choice among clients and addresses this need for “killing those darlings!”)

2. “Plotter” Outlining

This word probably seems a bit more self-explanatory—a “plotter” is someone who enjoys mapping out the book before it’s written. Sometimes that’s a few sentences per chapter, sometimes it is pages upon pages of character descriptions, setting descriptions, character arcs, etc. before even writing the actual book. For fantasy authors like J.R.R. Tolkien, it could be constructing entire languages of the people populating the fictional world (he was a writer of high fantasy, however, which is notorious for copious amounts of back story and world building).

Pros of “Plotting”:

Oftentimes when a significant amount of plotting has been done, there are not as many revisions to make in consecutive drafts. It’s been rumored that Lee Child, renowned and bestselling author of the Jack Reacher series, writes only one draft of each book—so the first draft might take longer, but perhaps subsequent drafts aren’t necessary, or mostly focus on fixing grammatical errors and not making large changes in the overall storyline.

Cons of “Plotting”:

Since this is the opposite of “pantsing,” which encourages total abandon and imagination, sometimes plotting can suck the “life” out of an author’s manuscript, or at least out of their desire to write it. A huge part of the draw for an author is that the first draft of a book is them discovering the story just as much as it is a reader discovering it. For some writers, not being able to do that leads to boredom and disinterest in the storyline.

Come back next week as Midnight Publishing discusses the “snowflake method” of outlining, which is a combination of the two options discussed above!

Midnight Publishing is a Phoenix-based company of editors, writers, and marketers trusted with over five million words since we opened our doors. We live to see authors’ dreams come true and help them put forth the best books they can so that their careers flourish. Contact us today to see how we can help you break into the publishing industry!

2018-02-08T13:05:52+00:00
Midnight Publishing Wordsmiths
Since 2009, our experienced writers and editors based in Arizona have provided creative, editorial, marketing, and consulting services to clients all over the United States. Our writers and editors are experts in their field and have been a part of award-winning publishing, editorial, marketing, and design teams. We’re passionate about sharing our clients’ influential, positive stories and messages with society.

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