Posted in 1. Writing

Making Outlining Work for Pantsers


If you are a Pantser, meaning you write new things by the seat of your pants, having an outline won’t always work. You may feel after writing one that once you know where the story is going it has lost its spark. Writing becomes dull and scripted. Writing for each step ends up arduous.

Yet Pantsers can use outlines to aid them. The best thing for a Pantser to outline, or at least write down, is the ending to avoid a flat one. You can’t write action, action, and … he died, the end. You need a direction even when writing by the seat of your pants. Your whims may take you off track, but remember where you are going so you can get back to that ending.

  • the princess won’t live happily ever after
  • the car will explode
  • the battle to end all battles will be survived by the druids

Another way you can use an outline is to keep track of your plot lines as you go, or at least in your first draft edit make a bulleted list of things you wrote that you forgot about. You might be able to add them back in to fix some plot holes.

  • Kevin had a brother who died mysteriously
  • The fairy may or may not have been her mother
  • Explosions happened in the 4th kingdom

Then when you edit the ending, make sure you closed those story arcs – unless you are writing a sequel. If you do write a sequel, make sure those story arcs (unsolved questions) are strong enough to carry it.


Elsha Hawk is a center-brained, imaginative, pragmatist who errs on the side of optimism. She is a writer, mom, teacher, wife, and go-getter. She has dabbled in ebooks, researched marketing and promotion of herself, joined social media, and written both solo and with a co-author Eddie-Joe Young. She won the short story contest, "Write to Win", in Writer's Journal and was published in the Nov/Dec 2009 issue. She also published a short story in Eclectic Flash in the April 2010 issue.

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