Last week I confessed all kind of Pantser secrets. Like the fact I’m a filthy dirty cheating hybrid and I actually sit somewhere in the middle of the plotter-pantser hot tub party.
One of the biggest differences between plotters and pantsers is whether or not they outline. In last week’s post, I talked through the first three of twelve outlining methods, including:
- Chapter Outlines
- 7 Point Plot Plan
- 3 Point Plot Plan
Today I am going to run through the rest of them.
Method SIX – Flash Like A Streaker
The flashlight method, is one I think is genius. It’s like the ultimate hybrid method.
It works by starting to write, then outlining only so much as you can see. Illuminate just enough of your next few chapters for you to continue writing without falling off the plot cliff and watching your novel crash and burn because you nawzed it right up. For example, say you’re on chapter 4 and you know loosely what shit you’re going to get your main character into for a dozen more scenes, then you just outline those. You can forget the remaining 300 scenes, and only plot just far enough ahead to keep you going.
Good for Plotters: because you know what’s coming in advance, allowing you to have crossed and dotted the appropriate vowels and consonants.
Good for Pantsers: because you don’t have to plot the whole book before you start. You only need to jot notes for as much ahead of your current point as you know. Meaning, you stay on track but also have flexibility to change stuff up when needed without having to force out plot twenty chapters in advance.
Method SEVEN – The Arty Farty Writer
There are a stack of methods you can use to outline if you are visual. The most common being the mind map.
But you can also use a flow chart to plot chapters, or character arcs or pacing.
Joanna Penn has a great article explaining what and how to use mind maps for outlining.
Good for Plotters: because you can quickly and efficiently plot the whole of your book on one page. There’s nothing better than a one page overview.
Good for Pantsers: because you can freestyle, the act of mind mapping is in itself a method of going with the flow, lines and bubbles are put wherever the voices in your head tell you to put them. Do it in pencil and you can change to your heart’s content.
Method EIGHT – Geek Out With Your Apps Out
There are so many apps, tools and programmes designed to help you outline and keep track of your novel related buns in the oven.
You can use excel to create scene list by way of plotting. There’s a great article on The Write Practice on this topic.
But it’s not just excel that you can use. Scrivener is infamous for its ability to help you to plot out and plan your novels. Just check out the YouTube tutorials from the Scrivener Coach.
Good for Plotters: because you can go nuts with these programmes. You could drown yourself in the heavenly fountain of plotting details.
Good for Pantsers: because umm… okay, not so great, it’s pretty detailed to be fair.
Method NINE – All Context & No Plot Makes The Pantser A Happy Writer
I nearly peed my pants with excitement when I read about this type of outlining. I immediately promised myself to at least attempt this.
You know when you’re reading a story and the start of a chapter its thundering and lightning, only to find at the end of the chapter the sun is shining at full pelt despite it being monsoon season?
Well context outlining will help stop you doing that.
The context outline, involves plotting out (in order ideally), every ‘venue’ or ‘location’ in your novel and any associated contextual information.
Context outlining is the ultimate cheat. It’s everything BUT your plot. It’s locations, timing, weather, and anything else big picture context you think is relevant to your book.
Good for Plotters: because you could do this as well as another type of outline. You can bathe in the detaily goodness of minutia and continuity
Good for Pantsers: because it’s not your standard outline. No plot required, bitches. Fill your boots with the shit you usually fudge up, while not having to determine any of the plot.
Method TEN – Meta Like You just Met Ya Novel
Let me make a huge sweeping generalisation that’s bound to annoy some one. There’s two types of people in life: big picture people and small detail people.
Big picture folks, like me, love nothing more than bathing in the glory of the end goal. It’s a little catalyst of pug puppy joy for them. They constantly think about the end game and are happy to play strategy tennis, taking short-term botox injections for long-term baby face.
But what they forget to do, is think about the process of getting there.
Me: So you wana work full-time as a writer?
Me in my head: Sure do.
Me: Awesome… How you guna do it?
Me in my head: Oh… Shit.
When it comes to writing a book, you need details as much as you do plot structure and story arcs. The beauty of outlining is that you can play both to your strengths, or if you want some self-development, to your weakness.
If you know you’re no good at remembering whether Johnny Jr. was fat and wore silk gloves or skinny and blind, then build an outline for those kinds of details. You could note them by chapter, or by arc journey i.e. he’s fat at the start and by chapter 20 he lost 87 stone.
Stuff you could include in a META outline are things like:
- Was the splodge on the dogs back brown or black?
- Foods characters eat
- Any notable changes to characters from the start to the end
- Any quirks to settings
- Character names
- Family relations
Good for Plotters: because this method is detail to the max. This is the kind of outline that would give a true plotter a big fat outlining Ohhhgasm. It captures all the tiny details you don’t want lost and you can plot them by chapter if you want
Good for Pantsers: because it helps you not lose all the shit plotters write down and we might otherwise forget, change, or simply f*** up.
Scott Westerfield’s (author of the Uglies series) article on this very topic is fab.
Method ELEVEN – Snowflake
Possibly the most well known of all the outlines, Randy Ingermanson created the snowflake method.
The premise of his method is to start small and work up to a long outline and eventually novel.
- Write one sentence about your novel
- Expand it into a paragraph
- Then a page… and so on
Good for Plotters: because it is a true outline, you build on what you know and develop it into a full outline which directly leads into a full manuscript.
Good for Pantsers: because you build on what you know. If you only know one sentence, that’s all you need to start. Although the method dictates completing the outline before you begin, you don’t have to. You could get to a paragraph, start
writing bleeding on the page and then expand as you go.
Method TWELVE – K.M Weiland
So, my intention was to have finished reading this book before I recommended it, but I haven’t had time to finish it, and I’m impressed with what I’ve read so far. K.M Weiland’s book Outlining Your Novel, is less of a method in itself and more of a comprehensive guide to outlining.
It’s an outlining bible. It guides you through making a decision on what kind of outliner you are, things you should include and the different methods in which you can do it.
So there we are. That’s all twelve methods. Which, if any do you use? And have I tempted you to try any new ones? Let me know in the comments below.
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