Plantsing My Way Through Books

Some people plot, meaning they plan their novels before they write them (also called outlining). On the other hand, some people (like me), don’t. We pants (meaning someone who ‘flies by the seat of their pants’) and have no plan at all, or at least not to the same degree as a plotter. This is also called discovery writing, (which is what I used to call it long before I heard of the pantsing term).

So I don’t plot. Or well I do. I don’t make an outline though. Or well kind of. I make an overview. One single document, detailing the basic plot, some of the characters, what’s going to happen and maybe why. This document might have notes to myself, ideas about names for characters, or big underlined warnings (DON’T DO THIS!). I hesitate to call it an outline because I don’t really use it when I write. It just an overview I create before I start pantsing. When I’m ready for the story, I’ve been adding so many bits and pieces to my overview that I know where to take it in a sense – even though I don’t.

If I get stuck, and I mean really stuck, I’ll have a look at the overview. Try and figure out what I was thinking, where I was going with something. It doesn’t always help, so most of the time I just pants myself out of it.

I should mention that even though I pants, I have plans to outline a future novel. Like properly outline, and I’ve been looking at the snowflake method. But I haven’t tried it yet, not properly.

The great thing about my overview approach is that I can slowly build a pretty huge “outline” for a future book. I currently have 24 books planned, and I intend to write them all in order, (even though I’ve already written a first draft for no. 14). So whenever I get a new idea that could suit one of the stories, I write it down in my phone, take it home, and fill in the relevant overview. When I eventually get around to starting that particular story, I’ll have a big stack of ideas and plans for it ready to go.

In one sense, I’ll automatically become more and more of a plotter. Because the books I write first will have less time to stew compared to those coming after, the later books will be more outlined and the first ones will be more pantsed. (Yes, it’s a word.)

I’m looking forward to see what this will do to my writing. I know that I’m very excited to write some of the books that have begun to accumulate lots of ideas, so as far as I know, this method works well for me.

5 thoughts on “Plantsing My Way Through Books

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  1. I just tried this technique myself. I wrote a 2-page overview. I am hoping this will help me stay on track. I have written short stories and never used an outline. Writing a novel is a bit more challenging.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Reblogged this on litaenterprise and commented:
    Another great article, Trey. 🙂

    I’ve tried The Snowflake Method. For me, it works for short story writing, but when I came to writing my first novel (now first drafting) I found the environment too confining. Now, I write straight into Scrivener, then export each scene or scene fragment into iAWriter to print and file.

    Similar to your current method, I have an overview of the story in a notebook. While I’m typing into Scrivener, I have the notebook handy to jot down anything that suggests itself for edits and/or additions in past and upcoming scenes. I don’t edit as I go along. I’m leaving that joy (hahaha) for the first revisions.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Stephen King does it your way, too. As did I for my first two books, but for my third, which has 4 POV characters (the first book had 1, the second had 2), I have to be more careful and have made a loose outline (which seems to change quite a bit as I go through it). I even made a “visual” outline (where I have colored lines illustrating how the characters interact chronologically through the book, as they are often in different locations).

    Also, the first two books were too long, particularly the first one. I think outlining and keeping track of the word counts better is helping me to keep from getting too wordy with the first draft. If I recall, the first book was up somewhere around 300K words! Second was around a more manageable 245K. I’m aiming for around 110K for book 3. So far I’m inching higher as I go, though.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I like your overview approach, Trey.

    I’m a pantser, but I keep a file of dates for every event in my WIP just in case I decide to write further books in the series. No point in annoying readers by having a protagonist who is portrayed as six years old when her grandma dies, and then including backstory in a subsequent novel about her being thirteen when she loses Gramamma.

    Liked by 1 person

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