I’m an unashamed pantser, writing first and even second drafts of novels without an outline. The closest I get to pre-writing is brainstorming sessions where I’ll make lists of possible scenes to write. So far, every project I’ve tried to outline has been a mess until I decided to chuck the outline and just go with my gut.
But as I’ve revised and prepared my current manuscript for submission, I’ve come across a few reasons why even a pantser can benefit from a basic outline. If you’re at this stage in the process, you may find post-outlining helpful, too.
1. Outlining makes big-picture revisions easier. I went through my manuscript chapter-by-chapter and summarized every scene in one sentence. Then I highlighted each scene that was important to the main plot in one color, and chose different colors for scenes that furthered the different subplots. When I examined that, it was a lot easier to see where and why things might be dragging, which scenes I should cut, and which ones I needed to move or change.
2. Outlining makes it easier to write a synopsis. Most writers hate synopses, but they’re a necessary component of the submission process. With my highlighted outline, I can see what I need to include in a synopsis, and what I should leave out. Reducing 78,000 words to one to two pages is tough, and having the big-picture view of an outline really helps.
3. Outlining makes it easier to talk about your book. I have a hard time discussing my work, whether I’m talking with a fellow writer or delivering a prepared pitch to an agent. How do I explain this thing I’ve poured so much of myself into without simply saying, “Here, read it”? Creating an outline helps me summarize my story without rambling about a favorite character or subplot.
Do you outline your work at all? If you’re a pantser, have you considered post-outlining? What works for you?