Episode 226: Grow Up! Aging into Planner-hood

On April 15, 2023, Rex and Kasie took on the effort of outlining your novel. Here are the show notes:

Theme for the day

Becoming a Planner


  • What is a planner?
  • What are some best practices for outlining?
  • Do outlines make it easier to write? How?
  • How to develop a novel outline
Photo by cottonbro studio on Pexels.com

The classic debate for writers is between the Pantsers and the Planners. Pantsers are so-called because they write by the seat of their pants – making it up as they go along. Planners create outlines for their stories and then write to the outline. They claim it’s a more productive way to create in the same way Pansters claim there’s not enough freedom to create when you’re bound to an outline.

So, Rex is currently writing from an outline. Do you feel restricted or hemmed in? What’s the value of the outline in the prewriting stage?

Here are some benefits to creating an outline (link):

  • Helps visualize the big picture
  • Keeps the story on track
  • Logs which scenes go where
  • Clearly presents character arcs
  • Acts as a guide to ease writer’s block when you’re stuck
  • Clarifies the middle, to avoid the “muddle”

Some drawbacks to creating an outline (same link):

  • Can create a stilted narrative
  • If followed too closely, can feel formulaic
  • May lead to more showing rather than telling in the actual writing
  • Characters may seem to make inauthentic choices, solely based on plot points instead of natural results from narrative action

Segment 2

Different types of outlines? Aren’t they all the same? Nay! This link offers a few options (direct quotes in blue):

The Novel Writing Roadmap for those micro-managing folks.

Plot templates or story skeletons (cuz it’s all be done before)

Question arcs (especially good for thrillers):

To use the question arcs technique, take a large piece of paper and draw a vertical line down the side. Draw a dot on the line for roughly where a question is raised in your story, then beside the dot, write what the question is.

Index cards and post-it notes (Scrivener models this method)

The goal-to-decision cycle: 

Your character starts with a goal. However, there is some conflict, which stops them from achieving their goal. They battle the conflict, but unfortunately, the situation ends in disaster – with the character being in a worse situation than they were at the start.

Following this blow, they have an emotional reaction, which resonates with the reader. Then, they have a dilemma. What are they going to do next? Once they have made that decision – that forms their new goal, and the cycle begins again.

Yes, but … No, and … – At each decision point in the novel:

If you choose the Yes… but, then the character does achieve what they wanted… but… there’s a catch. There’s a new complication leading to a new goal or obstacle.

On the other hand, you may decide that their actions do not result in the achievement of their goal. And… not only that, but a new complication is raised.

Segment 3

Here’s a blog with five steps in the “how to” (link):

  1. Craft your premise:
  • Who is the main protagonist?
  • What is the situation?
  • How will the protagonist change from the beginning of the novel to the end?
  • What is her/her objective?
  • What does he/she want?
  • How does he/she get or not get what they want?
  • Is there an opposing force that is stopping the protagonist from achieving this objective?
  • What is the central conflict of the novel?
  • What about the central theme—what are you trying to say?
  1. Determine your setting
  2. Get to know your characters
  3. Construct your plot: Beginning, Middle, End
  4. Write your scenes

Segment 4

And Jerry Jenkins (link) offers these six steps:

  • Get your novel down to a one-sentence pitch
  • Decide on a story structure (POV, etc)
  • Get to know the characters in your novel (develop backstory)
  • Flesh out the novel’s plot here’s a sublist to this list:
    • Adventure: a person goes to new places, experiences new things, and faces myriad obstacles.
    • Change: a person undergoes a dramatic transformation.
    • Romance: jealousy and misunderstandings threaten lovers’ happiness.
    • Mistake: an innocent person caught in a situation he doesn’t understand must overcome foes and dodge danger.
    • Lure: a person must decide whether to give in to temptation, revenge, rage, or some other passion. He grows from discovering things about himself.
    • Race: characters chase wealth or fame but must overcome others to succeed.
    • Gift: an ordinary person sacrifices to aid someone else. The lead may not be aware of his own heroism until he rises to the occasion.
  • Decide on the setting for your novel
  • Synopsize your chapters

Consider also:

The Reverse Outline – begin with the end in mind, work your way back

Mind Map – draw the plot points, characters, themes, conflicts, and chapters

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