Planners and Pantsers: Why Winners Use Outlines

Planners and Pantsers: Why Winners Use Outlines

In the writing world there are two types of persons: planners and pantsers.

Well, actually there are several types of people. The world of writing is a diverse array of faiths, ethnicities, backgrounds, etc…..

BUT really it comes down to this: those who outline their books and those who fly by the seat of their pants (pantsers).

Here are two reasons why you need an outline and one myth

It Speeds Up the Writing Process

The writing process can be messy. Especially if you’re writing the first draft of your first book. The task is daunting enough. You don’t need any unnecessary chaos.

Think of it like taking a coast-to-coast road trip. Sure, you could wing it or rely on your memory to recall the roadmap for 3,000 miles. Chances are you will be making a few U-turns, stopping to ask for directions, and arrive at your destination much later than intended.

Writing the story out in a bullet format gives you the structure you need to succeed. You’ll spend less time fumbling for the awesome ideas you already thought of and more time actually writing them.

Outlines Structure Your Time

Once you have an outline, you have an overview of the work involved in writing. The chapter-by-chapter breakdown helped me know what I was doing each week. It gave me a sense of purpose and a timeline for a completed first draft.

It also gave me a sense of purpose. Every time I sat down to write, I knew what I was writing about. Everytime I left my keyboard, I knew what I was coming back to later. It allowed me to live in the story 24/7.

This doesn’t mean you should feel bound to write each chapter in order or that you must follow the plan you wrote down. That’s so stupid. Why would you think that? You wrote the plan so you can change it. Go ahead. No one’s looking.

Myth: It Will Stifle My Creativity

Shut up. It will NOT stifle your creativity. It just helps you focus. This is usually what people who are scared of commitment say. “I don’t want to be trapped in a relationship with my outline.”

What is wrong with you? It’s an outline. Change it. Press “delete” if you don’t like it. If you have another creative idea, great, throw it into the outline as a nice detour on your way to a completed book.

If you’re like me, your creative self is like a 5 year old running through a blossoming poppy field covered in butterflies and decorated with shiny objects. It needs to be reined in. An outline helps me do just that.

Maybe your a pantser. That’s great too. But I prefer an outline and that’s why.

Jonathan McCullough