Linda Maye Adams

Outline? What Outline?

This post is inspired by Liv Rancourt’s A Plotter’s Process.  I’m a pantser, but I have tried outlining.

I ran into horrendous problems on Miasma.  They were so bad that I wasn’t sure if I could fix them.  But I thought trying outlines might help, and I was willing to change my writing process if it did.  So I went from outline to outline, searching for one that clicked with me.  Instead, it was a frustrating and unhelpful experience.  I could not make them work no matter how hard I tried!  The worst was an outline workshop that was “pantser friendly.”  There’s nothing worse than being the only one in class who doesn’t get the material.  I managed to battle my way through the lessons, but when I looked at them later, I had no idea how I did it.  What doing the workshop did teach me was that outlines clash with my creative process.

Please don’t tell me I’ll come over from pantsing eventually.  Or that I don’t get outlines, or aren’t doing them right.   Or my favorite, that I’m outlining and don’t know it.  And I’ve never understand this “Your first draft is your outline” business.  If a writer creates an outline and then writes the story he has a first draft.  If I skip the outline and write the story, all I end up with is an outline?!  That doesn’t make sense!

I’m not broken or deluding myself.  Pantsing is the only way I can write.

I start by taking an idea and writing a summary of it, over and over until I start to get a feel for the story.  It’s really just a launching point so I’m writing with story in mind and not a vague idea.  I’ll also work on a sentence describing the story.

Then I start writing, and I follow the flow of the writing.  If something occurs to me, I put it in, even if I’m not sure what I’m going to do with it.  I’ve often found some of the greatest ideas that shape the story by doing that.  I describe it as throwing paint at the wall to see what sticks.

With characters, I toss one into the story when I need one, and they happen.

What’s your writing process?  How do you work out what the story is?  Have you ever had anyone tell you your writing process was wrong?


  1. Without Randy Ingermanson’s Snowflake method I’d never get a book together. Google his name or snowflake guy. I think he has a freebie. It really is good and I’m a panster and proud of it.


  2. Sounds like we write a lot alike. I know my general plan (aka the problem, setting and time frame) and I know the ending (guy gets girl and live happily ever after). Other than that, I’m a let’s-walk-through-that-door-and-see-what-people-we-meet-and-what-comes-from-it kind of writer. How many chapters will it be? Ummm…depends on how many doors we must walk through before the character decides to cooperate with the happily-ever-after-ending. 🙂


    • YEAH, someone after my own heart.


  3. Thanks for the shout-out, Linda! Between your post and mine, I seem to definitely be in the minority. Ah well…it’s interesting to learn about different approaches. You never know when you’ll need to try something new.
    Thanks again.


  4. As a pantser, I haven’t given up hope of getting more outlining- compatible but as of now, fraid I’m a throwing-the-paint-on-the-wall kind of writer, too. I will have to check out Diana’s suggestion.


  5. @Diana I’ve looked at the Snowflake in the past. It still has too much planning for me. I often go into my stories without my even naming my main character.

    @Cora, Liv, Carrie: We need a writing book of our own on pantsing!


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