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Outlining – Hell for a Pantser

It’s 2004, and I have decided this will be my first year doing National Novel Writing Month. I heard about it from a friend of family member, and figured this was the sort of even I need to get my writing arse in gear.

Since about 1983 I fiddled with writing here and there over the years. I wrote mostly flash fiction (I called them “1-pages” because I limited it to one type page – and yes, I mean typed). I also liked to do short stories. Really short. I wasn’t too keen on the long haul. But, I liked the idea behind the challenge: 50,000 words in one month.

I set up on November 1st with nothing more than a short story I wrote 5 years prior. By short, I mean 3 pages, barely. I had a crap laptop to do the dirty work with a copy of Word.

And I set forth on my journey, channeling whatever muse was guiding me along. I ended up with 50,000 words and some minor semblance of a story. None of it sequential. It was all over the place.

Then I did it again another 3 years.

I was a “successful” writer, meaning I had writeen 4 novel length POS’s. Who needed an outline?

I never outlined. Except for research papers.

And So I Outline

Now, 18 years later, I’m paying the price for that lack of outline. I spent a good part of last year adding 56,000 more words to my novel. Then I tried to organize it, wrap my head around it all, and it wasn’t working.

But I finished. I made it to the end. I sent it to an editor. And what did they say? My structure is all over the place (but the writing is great). Was I surprised?

Now, armed with my editor’s notes and transcript of the call, I decided to outline this thing. And so I’ve dove head first into many books on outlining and found one that I jived with. I know I’ve written about this already.

So now as my new story structure (summary) sits in a desk drawer fermenting, I’m starting the next project. Novel number 2 from NanoWriMo. And before I dive into it, adding another 50,000 words, guess what I’m doing?


I still get to “pants” daily in my freewrite journal. But if you’re a pantser, I recommend finding a process that works for you. Do it BEFORE you merrily go down the path of writing. It’s FAR easier to fix an outline/summary, than a 100,000+ novel. And far cheaper for an editor (or beta reader) to review.

This will be my first foray into outlining BEFORE writing. It should be fun…

I can’t wait to see what happens this week.

If you’re interested, the process I like I found in Jim Driver’s Outline Your Books or Die!. You can find it on Amazon. (not an affiliate link)

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