Why I Don’t Outline

Hey, A. E. here. Today I want to talk about why I specifically, myself as my own writer, do not outline. This is not a post about why other writers should not outline, but why I personally do not. I think writers need to write in a way that is productive and conducive to getting the writing done.

It bothers me when writing sites or author vlogs keep pressing the importance of outlining and how outlining is better than pantsing. I can see the value in outlining, but as long as the writing gets done in a reasonable amount of time, then it doesn’t matter whether or not you’ve outlined.

I am a panster, not an outliner or planner. I don’t do outlines, they just…they feel like trying to write in a box where I don’t have enough room to move my pencil. I simply can’t be creative in a box or with rules enforced.

Doesn’t work.

However sometimes I forget that, and I try to outline. So, I made an outline for Emmy Bell and the Gate to Myra up to chapter 6, including chapter titles. It was pretty clear cut but I ended up feeling too restricted to end up writing any of it.

And normally, I don’t ever write with an outline. I just start writing. Sometimes from the beginning, sometimes I write the ending of the story first and other times I’m writing bouncing from different scenes that I find interesting at that time.

Write how you write.

Just make sure the way you write actually gets the writing done. If the “way you write” means you only get 100 words done a week…then maybe you need a different writing plan.

But if writing without an outline gets the words down, then don’t feel the need to force yourself to follow writing advice that insists on needing an outline to write a book. A book only needs words to be written, and how you go about writing those words is up to you.

lots and lots of these

But I can admit that I’m not wholly 100% a planner.

I’ll use my writing process with my debut The Other Side as an example. I had a lot of false starts when I started at the beginning. Starting at Chapter One I ended up continually rewriting Chapter One over and over again, because Chapter One was never right.

Then, I simply began to write from scenes that popped in my head. I wrote random scenes, and slowly put them into order, then began to fill in the empty blank spaces, stitching the scenes together into a cohesive story. I can’t even tell you when I actually did write Chapter One.

Then after I had a complete story put together, and I figured out what exactly I wanted to happen in what order, and what needed to be done. I did in fact end up with a sort of outline, but I had already written in the book, and it was more of a guideline, rather than the rules to write the story.

Then I was able to rewrite the story suggested by my guidelines, making sure I was hitting the plot beats I wanted to hit, and I completed the novel on my tenth draft, and self-published The Other Side in September of 2018.

So when it comes to outlining, I really can’t start with an outline, is the better way to put it. If I outline first, I feel nothing towards writing the story. If I write the story first, I can piece out a pseudo-outline from that. I can say for at least my first draft, I have to pants it.

Hop on and let the story travel and take me anywhere, without any outline, without any guidebook or road map. Then once I’ve gone all over the place, I can figure out which parts of the story are what I want to keep, what order I want them in, how this will turn into that, and make a new completed draft from there.

As for Emmy Bell and the Gate to Myra, her draft is shuffling along, scene by scene, and now that I’m figuring out more about what I want to do with her, and her story, I know I can meet my December 31st, 2021 deadline. I can’t wait to upload a post saying that the first draft is completed of either Emmy Bell and the Gate to Myra, or Zippy Mae and the Seven Kingdoms.

I’m writing both at the same time!

In conclusion, if there’s anything to take from this, is don’t let the fuss about outliner/planner v panster get to you. Figure out what your writing process is, making sure it’s a process that gets words down on the page, and go for it.  If outline doesn’t work for you, then don’t outline, and don’t think you’re not a real writer if you don’t outline. If the book, short story, screenplay, poem, song, journal, whatever, if it gets written without an outline, you’re still a real writer.

So go write!

And as always, while I write my cat Aomine keeps me company by my side.

A little difficult to type Aomy…

5 Comments Add yours

  1. kat says:

    I spent about 20 years trying to write using an outline, but always had more fun writing the outline, so just never really got started on the writing the story part. Recently, I’ve come to the conclusion all that writing advice about using an outline is definitely not for everyone and have started turning into a pantser. It’s so much fun to watch a story unfold organically! Not so much fun trying to corner it in.


    1. Right! I feel like the outline IS writing the story, only without enough detail. The last time I really wrote an outline was when I was writing one and the outline was over 200 pages. I told an author during a talk that I had a 200 page outline, and he told me to stop writing the outline and write the novel. So after that, I just write the novel as it comes to me, and no outline. It is definitely more fun to write the story as it takes you along, rather than try to follow a set of bullet points.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. kat says:

        Haha, I like that advice! Outlining is for some, but definitely not for everyone. I agree; it’s so much more fun to be swept away by the story. Best way to get to know your world and characters, I think. All that organic exploration and development just can’t be found in an outline most of the time.


  2. Tira says:

    “…as long as the writing gets done in a reasonable amount of time, then it doesn’t matter whether or not you’ve outlined…” I started out just writing what came to me as it came to me. Daydreaming out my premise then writing a few scenes. Then I felt lacking and thought I needed to outline like “real” writers did. I spent more time trying to follow outlining advice and rules that I got little to no story written. Now I am working on getting to just writing out my story then organizing my plot and character arcs after. I feel like I will be more productive that way. Thanks, I always helps to know that main stream is not the only way.


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