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Choosing the Right Outlining Style for Your Writing Process

This week we will be delving into how to choose the right outlining style for your writing process. Outlining plays a crucial role in organizing your thoughts, developing your story, and maintaining a clear direction throughout your writing journey, so in this article, we'll explore four popular outlining styles—Pantsing, Plantsing, Plotting, and Snowflake—along with three outlining methods—Story Genius, Save the Cat, and outlining your novel from the middle.


Pantsing


Pantsing, often referred to as "writing by the seat of your pants," is an outlining style that involves diving into the writing process without a detailed plan. Writers who choose Pantsing prefer to discover the story as they go along, allowing their creativity to flow freely. While Pantsing offers the advantage of spontaneity and the ability to surprise yourself, it can also present challenges in terms of maintaining coherence and structure.


If you're interested in trying Pantsing, consider keeping a loose outline that allows for flexibility while providing a general direction for your story. Embrace the rewriting process as a means to refine and shape your narrative into a cohesive whole.


Plotting


Plotting involves creating a detailed outline before diving into the writing process. This style is popular among writers who prefer a clear roadmap for their story. With Plotting, you have a well-defined plan, making it easier to navigate through the writing process.


If you decide to give Plotting a try, break your outline into manageable chunks or chapters. This way, you can maintain a sense of progress while allowing flexibility within the framework. Be open to adjustments and refinements as your story unfolds.


Plantsing


Plantsing is a hybrid approach that combines elements of Pantsing and Plotting. Writers who choose Plantsing enjoy the freedom of spontaneous writing while also appreciating the benefits of having a loose plan. This style allows for creativity and exploration, while still providing a basic framework to keep the story on track.


To embrace Plantsing, outline key plot points or milestones in your story while leaving room for discovery and exploration along the way. Strike a balance between structure and spontaneity to create a narrative that flows naturally.


Snowflake


The Snowflake method is an iterative approach to outlining that starts with a simple concept and gradually expands it into a detailed plan. By building upon each layer of the "snowflake," you create a solid foundation for your story. The Snowflake method is ideal for writers who prefer a structured approach but also value the creative process.


To embrace the Snowflake method, start with a simple concept or idea and gradually add complexity, fleshing out characters, plotlines, and themes. With this approach you can really focus on developing your characters and their emotional arcs.


Now we have discussed the different outlining styles, let's talk about some methods you can use to outline.


Save the Cat! Writes a Novel by Jessica Brody


Save the Cat is an outlining method that focuses on well-defined story beats and character arcs. By incorporating specific beats throughout your story, you can ensure a compelling and engaging narrative. Save the Cat provides a structure that helps writers create stories that captivate their audience and are tried and tested in the genre.


To implement Save the Cat, read the book so that you can take these successful story beats and adapt them to your own narrative. Identify key moments such as the introduction of the main character, the inciting incident, plot twists, and the climax. While using this method, be mindful of potential formulaic tendencies and find ways to infuse your unique voice and creativity into the structure.


Story Genius by Lisa Cron


Story Genius is an outlining method that places a strong emphasis on understanding your characters' motivations and desires. By delving deep into their psychology, you can create compelling and relatable characters that drive the narrative forward. While character-driven, Story Genius also acknowledges the importance of a solid plot structure.


Story Genius encourages your to conduct thorough character interviews and explore their emotional arcs. By understanding your characters' desires and conflicts, you can craft a narrative that resonates with your readers.


Outlining Your Novel from the Middle by James Scott Bell


Outlining your novel from the middle is an alternative approach that starts with a pivotal moment in the story (the midpoint) and works backward and forward from there. By identifying the central conflict/ turning point, you can build a strong narrative foundation around it.


To outline your novel from the middle, start by pinpointing the significant moment/ conflict that defines your story. Then, work backward to establish the events and character development leading up to that point. Similarly, plan forward to determine the consequences and resolutions that follow.


Choosing the right outlining style for your writing process is a personal decision that depends on your creative preferences, writing goals, and the story you want to tell. Whether you opt for Pantsing, Plantsing, Plotting, Snowflake, or explore the methods of Story Genius, Save the Cat, or outlining from the middle, remember that outlining is a tool to support your creativity, organization, and overall writing process.


If you want to delve more into this topic, head over to our podcast tomorrow to listen to the TWC hosts provide their insight on how they outline their stories.


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