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Dianne Salerni : Writer of Teen and Middle Grade Fiction | A Time to Pantster and a Time to Outline

A Time to Pantster and a Time to Outline

I’m hanging up my “pants” on this WIP and taking up outlining for awhile!

When I start a new story, I generally know how it begins and how it ends. The journey between those two points is an adventure – sometimes a scary, panic-stricken one – but nevertheless an exciting journey with lots of meandering and the occasional deadly cliff.


It’s like a great big connect-the-dots puzzle. Once the first draft is complete, I take a few steps back, and I might discover that I have to erase some of the lines and connect them in a different way. (But the same can be said of a first draft written from an outline.)

I have notes, of course – notes on things that must happen and things that might happen. Sometimes they are no more than impressions of scenes that may or may not ever be written. The characters tell me what to do as I go. Recently, the projected loser in a romantic triangle persuaded me he should be the winner after all. And since his rival didn’t turn out to be the guy I thought he was, I agreed whole-heartedly with the change.

But in the case of this new project, I think I need a more detailed road map. Research into Nikola Tesla is making my brain hurt! That man was into alternating current, high frequency high voltage electricity, wireless transmission of electricity, wireless communication, renewable energy, x-rays, remote controlled warcraft, and more. A story featuring Tesla could involve anything from Martians to anti-gravity! (He believed in both.) Without a plan, my dot-to-dot plot might end up a terrible snarl!

I know how I want the story to end, so I’ll be outlining backwards from that point until I reach my beginning. Yeah, I said I would outline, but I didn’t say I would do it the regular way.

I can’t promise I’ll follow the outline either! 😀

14 Responses to A Time to Pantster and a Time to Outline

  1. salarsenッ says:

    Yeah, I tend to let the story lead me. Funny how that happens.

  2. Linda G. says:

    You sound just like me. I’m a dedicated pantser, but my current WIP is getting confusing enough that I’ve resorted to experimenting with outlining. Good luck with yours! 🙂

  3. Good luck with your project, Dianne. There’s nothing more exciting than working on a new book and the adventure it brings. Enjoy every minute of it:)

  4. I pansted the first one, and I’m finally got the whole thing together. I’m going to loosely outline the second one. I think I needed more structure.
    Good luck!

  5. Candyland says:

    Go girl!!! I’ve found that I can only outline after I thought I was finished (like now)…

  6. I NEED an outline:) But my outlines are really rather ‘loose’- consist of scene blurbs that can be moved or deleted or changed at any given moment. Good luck! This project sounds like it’s gonna be amazing- never heard of tesla! But I’ll bet discovering him through your book will be a wonderous experience.

  7. I’m a compulsive outliner. I have to know my story in order to help my characters get there… naturally they often lead me in new directions, but that’s when I re-outline 🙂 My current WIP has a 45 pages outline… very detailed! But I love having that kind of control, and my characters don’t seem to mind!!

  8. Lola Sharp says:

    WHOA!! Marisa has a 45 page outline?! *head explodes*
    Seriously, my brain just splattered all over my macbook.

    Also, outlining in general freaks me out (I’m not great at organizing, for starters), but outlining backwards (!) makes my brain hurt.

    Man, I now have a complex. I think, perhaps, my brain is stupid. Or, well, it was before it exploded.

  9. Becca says:

    Gosh, I’m having the same problem right now. I know what’s supposed to happen in my wip, but I can’t seem to get it to come out the way I need it. Like pieces are missing. I’ve found I’m probably going to have to start outlining too.

  10. mshatch says:

    Ha! I laughed as soon as I saw the title to this post! I know I’m a pantster – but I do outline, usually around chapter6-10, which is usually when my muse takes a break. Outlining helps me get her back to work.

  11. Lenny Lee! says:

    hi miss dianne! i didnt ever hear that word pantster and so i did a lookup on google and it got me to a blog where a writer was saying how she writes and got asking whats the dif between a pantster and a plotter. on a comment someone said she sounds like she a plantster. ha ha. i like that word cause you could be a mix and do both at the same time. how cool is that!
    …smiles and hugs from lenny

  12. Linda and Becca — I guess even the most dedicated pantster has to sit down and plot things out sometimes!

  13. OMG — I’m supposed to be in The Practice Room right now and totally unplugged from the internet, but I have to share: outlining backwards is totally working!

    If you know what the end result must be, then you realize what caused it. And then you realize what must have happened just before, and what caused that.

    I am SO PSYCHED!

  14. WTG, Dianne! It sounds like reverse planning is working for you. 🙂