As writers, we all follow at least one or another set of writing process steps any time we sit down to write the novel of our dreams.
However, many are unaware that there are two answers to this one question, which can be decided upon the type of writer we are.
Do we love writing by the seat of our pants or do we prefer an outline?
For some of us, we might just sit down and write, allowing the characters to take us places in our works.
Yet for others, we need a clear-cut blueprint stemming from which to write. They need to sit down and work on a process that will allow them to create a nice outline and follow through.
Now you may be asking which writing process is right for you.
Let’s find out.
The Outliner is the one who likes to sit and brainstorm ideas for an upcoming novel. They like to jot down notes, weigh ideas, situations, outline characters, and really see which situation would play out the best in each novel.
When I first started writing Northern Knights, I did this before realizing I wasn’t much of an Outliner, but I’ll get to that in a minute.
Once they’ve brainstormed, the Outliner likes to sit and plot out each point of a novel. Some might even write out a working title for each chapter and decide how each character and scene is going to affect the story.
For Chapter One, they might want to make a certain setup, and for Chapter Four, this point will be the payoff for Chapter One’s setup.
Every setup and payoff are outlined before the author actually goes to write.
However, the author might want to go even further, and outline in a sentence or two each point made in a chapter. For example, they’ll start with a sentence or two before morphing to a paragraph, to some dialogue, to actual scenes, and so on.
Outliners love to design everything and draw their plans before diving in.
Pantsers are the second type of writer, and they’re what I tend to lean myself toward.
Pantsers love diving right into the work and place their main characters into trouble, allowing them to create scenes that they’ll discover through writing how their characters get out of such trouble.
They do this again and again, continually until they reach the climax or breaking point of the novel.
Pantsers are feelers while Outliners are thinkers. In other words, instead of thinking how the plot will go and playing with ideas, Pantsers just naturally know when to insert trouble and inject much-needed action throughout the work.
I operate this way. When I’m writing, I have a little time clock in my mind which tells me to put some trouble into the work.
I’ll do this time and again before reaching a climactic scene, where all the previous troubles eventually lead.
For instance, in Northern Knights, trouble begins with Chapter One where Lira tells an ignorant Cain of how bad the mass dystopia is in the larger cities in South Columbia.
The reader, from Chapter One, will know that Cain’s ignorance will be paid off later on when trouble occurs.
This comes to a head in the hotel lobby scene and the actions here lead to the attack on imperial soldiers before fleeing to the shore, where another attack is present. Eventually, their troubles follow them to North Columbia, where more hell is about to break loose.
This is how Pantsers act.
Hybrid, the Third-Party Candidate
Now, you might be identifying yourself as both. You might state you’re like 50% Pantser and 50% Outliner.
Or, maybe if you’re like me you state you’re 70% Pantser and 30% Outliner.
Yes, some of us might be Hybrids.
For me, I like creating a small outline of each chapter before going into my writing while eventually deviating from my planned text of how the story will turn out to something completely different.
Or, some of you may start off with writing until you write yourself into a corner, which many of us do if we dive in too early before succumbing to an outline.
Whichever way you go, it means you may be best built for the Hybrid model. Outline a little, Pants a little, before reverting to an Outline or whichever way your unique differences lead.
While some of us may thrive as 100% Outliner or 100% Pantser, chances are we may contain some qualities of each.
Also, some of us may not have written enough yet to know where we stand on this spectrum, but the only way to find out is to try a little bit of each first and see which comes naturally to you.
Never follow an Outlining model because Famous Author A uses it and never follow the Pantser model because Famous Author B uses it.
Instead, use a model that you’re most comfortable with, and if you’re the Hybrid type and want some qualities of both, that’s also okay.
Whichever way, remember the writing process is something unique to all of us and there’s zero one-size, fits all method.
In fact, just as we’re all different biologically, chances are our own unique writing process will be just as different.