In our local writer’s group a while back (seriously was probably last year…) we were talking about “how we write.”

I mentioned that I’m a “winger.” I like to wing it and just write and see what comes out of my keyboard. I come up with the funniest stuff off the top of my head, then go back and create a plan.

I’ve switched to calling myself the more “normal” term of… Seat of the Pants Writer… after a fellow writer told me to be careful when I said “winger.” Um, yeah. So I say “seat of the pants” now.

All you outliners right now, on top of cringing at the thought of someone mistaking “winger” for something else, are also probably getting breaking a sweat at the thought of just writing without a plan. I understand completely, because I get the same feeling when I think about sitting out and trying to plan/outline a story.

But there comes a point in every SOTPW’s life that they have to put together a rough outline, as hated as it may be.

I’ve reached that point in my current novel. I’m at 20k words and am hitting a pivotal change in my story. My “top of my head” stuff has served me well so far. I have a ton of ideas, I have a story taking shape that I’m really happy to. But I also have all these threads that I’ve created that now need to be sewn together to intertwine and eventually climax to complete my story.

That’s where my outline comes in. If you can call it that. Really, at the moment, it is just me writing down off the top of my head what my book will be about. It’s me connect all my dots and deciding where my book is headed. I still have a few questions in my head, still a few character traits I need to learn about Maddie and Reuben, but I’m getting there.

This is also when I map out my chapters. Not my future chapters, mind you. But my past chapters, and start logging them as I go. This makes me ensure that there’s a “point” to each chapter and that I’m moving along nicely.

Writer’s approach how they “organize” their writing in so many different ways. I use excel and am tweaking and experimenting as I go to see which way I like best. There are no right or wrong ways.

Some use detailed scene GMC’s, other’s use a comprehensive outline, still others have sticky notes galore and poster boards mapping story arcs.

Regardless, I’m a big believer that there is no “better” or “best” way. We all have unique brains and need to cater to our individual mental needs. I’d love to hear how each of YOU organize your book as you write. Maybe we’ll get some ideas from each other!



  1. Hi Krista,
    It's so fun to hear the different ways that writer's work! I love the diversity and the uniqueness! Of course, you already know that I'm a total planner! Before I start my story, I have to know everyone and just about everything. Then as I write, especially as a historical writer, the details seem to be woven in more naturally. It's almost as if I'm right in the scene.

    I think that no matter our style, at some point in the book we do have to keep track of the plot threads. In a full length novel, there are so many things to remember. If we didn't have some method of plotting, I think it would be hard to pull everything together in the end without leaving out things.

  2. I'm a psycho planner. Pyscho. I have to know where my book is going. I start by doing icky research. Once that's done and I have the general gist of what I need to know in my head, then I get to know my characters. I create indvidual whole book GMC charts for them. And then I fill out Jeff Gerke's plotting chart. And THEN, get this, I outline every scene with individual GMC! Yea…told you, I'm psycho. Now, of course, as I write, these scenes change and flow. I just need to have it down on paper. The prewriting/plotting is usually the most time consuming for me. Once I get it done, I can pump out a first draft pretty darn quick.

  3. I have a notebook…I write a rough draft of each chapter then flesh it out on the computer. I also outline about 10 chapters at a time. I'll probably be even more anal about it the second time around. But we'll see 🙂

  4. Wellll, I would say I am more of a Pantster. I did a rough outline to begin with, but found later on that I really could have used more planning. With the next book I will aspire to be more like Jody and Katie. Psycho Planner! I like that! lol

  5. I'm so a pantster…But once I get the story down (a very rough first draft) I'll go back and start a little outline, so I can be sure weave all my little tangents together.

    I do a more detailed character sketch and put the flesh on. I love hearing how other writers plan their stories. Thanks for the post!

  6. I am like you. I tend to outline after I've started the story and gotten a feel for who the characters are and where I'm trying to go. We all have different ways of doing this, like you say. I do believe, though, that every should have some sort of organization going on. The ones who don't, and crank out amazing work, must have divine intervention. Hah.

  7. I love to hear how other writer's organize their ideas.

    I use a plot board, post its, a GMC chapter by chapter outline, and lots of talking it out with my daughter. Each step helps me refine what it is that I want to say and why.

    I used to be a SOTP writer, but I've found that the plot board really helps me flesh out the initial germ of an idea.

  8. I've tried both ends. SOTP leads me nowhere but a mess, and too structured sucks the life out. After 7 completed first drafts, I'm still finding the right amount of planning for me.

    But I need a setting, some characters with motivation and goals, an instigating circumstance, an idea for the climax, and 20-30 scene ideas.

    I tend to arrange this in Scrivener (where I also write the first draft) because it's so easy to rearrange the parts.

    I really wish I could learn to write cleaner first drafts, though. And I seem to think that a *better* planning method would do that, but in reality, it may just not be possible.


  9. I'm a fellow SOTP writer. If I write an outline, it changes. I also like to sketch my characters with colored pencils.

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