I’m An Outliner

Where to, gumshoe? Photo courtesy EH101 from “it.” Via Wikimedia commons.

There are 10 kinds of writers. Those who can read binary code, and those who can’t.

Heh heh…okay, for serious…There are two kinds of writers. There are Planners and Seat-Of-The-Pantsers.


The writers who must have an outline. If there’s no outline, the story doesn’t happen. Doesn’t happen logically, at least. Without an outline, the writer will either get stuck, or give up completely on the story, deeming it “Stupid,” “Confusing,” or “Going nowhere.”

The downside to planners is that they can’t just sit down and write. The upside to planners is that they know exactly what is going to happen before they write it, increasing their productivity and preventing writers’ block.


An interesting breed. These are the creatives who like to watch the story unfold before them, learning about their characters as they go, gasping with amazement at every plot turn as it happens. Sure, they may have a pretty good idea of how things are going to play out in their head, but a written outline might just slow them down, so they have to get on top of it and start writing NOW!

The downside to SOP’ers is that if they get stuck in their story, there’s no telling how long it will take them before creativity strikes. They can’t go back and look at a roadmap to see where to go next, they have to just go for it and see which road works best. The upside to SOP’ers is that they can write anywhere, any time, and can start a project immediately without worrying about formal planning.


I’m a planner. I just spent the past two days plotting an outline for a project (Which will be heretofore known as “The Tower WIP”). I feel pretty confident in the directions its taken, and I know exactly where it’s going to go from beginning to end. If I get stuck, I can just write the next part, come back to the point I left off at later. And I really won’t get stuck, as long as I stick to the outline to tell me where to go next.

Typically what happens is, I get three quarters through my written outline when I decide to take the story in a different direction. I guess I do have a little bit of SOP in me, but planning is definitely dominant.

But how about you? Have you tried different methods, Planning and SOPing? Do you enjoy the element of surprise, or like to be in control?


6 thoughts on “I’m An Outliner

  1. Back when I was just getting started with writing, I didn’t plan a thing. Bit by bit, year by year, that’s changed. I’ve gone from scribbling just the seeds of inspiration, to sketching out more or less where the story’s supposed to go, to mulling over brainstorm documents of 20+ pages before I type a word of the novel.
    I am by no means condemning the SOP method. Sounds great, if you can make it work for ya. But at this point, I’m not sure I can. And so I plan as much as I can think to plan, and then I let the hounds loose. Happily, no matter how much I attempt to micromanage, my characters consistently manage to surprise me. (:

    • Wow, 20+ pages of brainstorm documents. Sounds like by the time you start writing, you’re DEFINITELY prepared! 🙂 Right now, I’ve only got 8 pages of brainstorm document for The Tower WIP, although since it’s a combination of two story concepts, I guess there’s even more pages from those brainstorm documents for me to explore…

      I wonder if SOPing is just a first-step method for writers? Something to get us going as “Youngsters” but eventually grow out of? Maybe?

  2. I am a hybrid, but I tend to lean toward the planner side. I usually make notes of what each chapter should accomplish and then change it as I need to. In the case of serial short stories, I just pray and fly by the seat of my pantsers 🙂

    • Short stories, yeah, pantsing is a good plan. 🙂 Y’know, the pre-planning-before-writing-a-chapter method is actually a GREAT way to boost your productivity with stories, i’ve heard. That sounds like it works out well for ya. 🙂

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