In writing a novel you have what we writers like to call either Pantsers or Plotters or somewhere in between. A pantser is someone who writes their novel, as they say, by the seat of their pants. In other words, there is absolutely no plotting of the novel whatsoever. They write their novel as it comes to them. However, with a plotter, it 180 degrees in the opposite direction where they outline everything before they write a single word for their novel.
Personally, I fall into the later category. However, it took me a little bit to realize this. I’d been attempting to write my novel. Over a year period I wrote out three chapters. Yes, you read that right. Only three whole chapters. I kept editing those three chapters over and over again not really getting anywhere. I wasn’t quite sure how I wanted to proceed forward. It was almost like I had stalled.
Then I joined ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) and began to hear about those who were plotters and those who were pantsers. As I paid attention, the term ‘outline’ emerged for those who were plotters. It was like a light bulb blossomed above my head guiding my path. I sat down and did one of those very short and concise outlines with simple bullets points where I ended up with about 26 different ones.
This got me thinking further. There were so many books on writing out there that maybe, just maybe, they had a book on just outlining a novel. So, I went to Amazon and did a search for a book on the subject. Right away I found a book by K.M. Weiland called Outlining Your Novel: Map Your Way to Success. This book helped me more than I could have ever imagined. It’s like it was written just for me.
The first time through I didn’t read it as thoroughly as I should have because I just wanted to get back to writing my novel but needed a better outline. So I read about the in-depth outline. It took me about a week and 20,000 words later to get a full in-depth one done. Over the next 30 plus days or so I ended up with a completed first draft. The only downside is it was only 50,000. Way shorter than I had aimed for, but I didn’t understand why.
About seven to eight months later while talking on the phone with a good friend I realized why the novel didn’t feel right. I needed to flesh it out further, really delve in deeper to not only understand the story but the characters in it. After about a two-hour phone call with my friend (Joy Melville), I realized that I needed to do a major rewrite of the novel, which in turn meant I needed to do a whole new in-depth outline. Only this time I vowed to do it right the first time. That meant I needed to read the ENTIRE book by Ms. Weiland instead of just bit and pieces. As a result, I started from the beginning and read the entire book. It’s because of this book I’ve been able to really understand my characters and to help the story grow deeper than I’d been able to before.
So I’m a plotter (or as my friend says, “a plotter on steroids” LOL). No matter how hard I tried to do the pantser way, it just wasn’t for me. So are you for of a plotter or a pantser or somewhere in between?