A lot has changed for my writing life in just the first two and a half months of this year. The class I took at the end of 2023 motivated me to get a lot done and look to organization for help.

For years, I’ve been a “pantser” when it comes to writing fiction. That means I sit down at the computer and start with a vague idea and a will to write. I write and whatever comes out, comes out. After I have whatever it is, I go through and edit and rewrite and edit and on and on until I can’t stand the story and characters anymore. I’ve been working on a novel on and off for several years through this method.

The class I took talked about the importance of planning for getting to where you want to be in the future, in life and in writing. With just about everything else in my life, I make a plan, decide the steps, and get whatever ‘it’ is done. I applied this information to creating a better outline for my novel. I created a thorough outline that extended my work from an about 60,000 word, 250 page document that had no direction to the end to a 109,000 word document of 460 pages with a beginning, middle, and end.

It’s currently going through a first full edit. Look for it in Q1 of 2025.

The major con for many is for those who struggle sticking with an outline feel it’s confining. You have to stick to the outline, and not wander beyond that. This is how I felt about outlines for a long time. It was a definite and locked in way to write and there was little room for exploring beyond what you previously decided needed to be followed. The feeling likely came from my academic life of book report writing when I had to submit outlines and rough drafts for approval, and straying from those previous plans was frowned upon in the final product turned in for grading.

I’ve learned that this is certainly not the case in creative fiction. It’s a form of writing that encourages you to take the side roads and paths less traveled. However, it doesn’t encourage you to start out on a road without a map.

Finally, there’s the idea of the “plantser.” That’s a person who thrives on both. They make that detailed plan and outline, but then throw it all in the trash if it ends up not working out the way they want.

But the outline doesn’t work for everything, or everyone. Do what’s right for you.