Pantser or Outliner

In the early days of flying with minimal instruments and low technology people were said to fly by the seat of their pants.




The writing equivalent of that is a Pantser, someone who starts their writing in a non-technical way i.e. without a plan or outline.

The opposite of a pantser is an Outliner, someone who creates at least a basic outline before they create any content.

Planning quote.jpg

An outline can range from a brief outline of the book, to a detailed outline that covers considerable detail of every chapter. The extreme form an outliner is an author who writes a detailed plan or outline of the entire book first.




There are different views as to which is better, to be a pantser or an outliner. Some people cannot work without a structure in the form of an outline. Others feel, often quite strongly, that an outline suffocates creativity.

When I started my debut romance novel Not Too Old for Love I didn’t know about pantsers or outliners. So, I started with no more than a basic concept.  Without realizing it I was a pantser.  There is no doubt this allowed full flow of my creativity. But at the same time, it meant things took a lot longer and much work had to be rewritten or dumped.

Although I want my novels to be easy reading I do not want them to be hard to write or for much time and work to be wasted. Therefore, it is unlikely that I will be a pantser for my next novel.  However, I am unlikely to become an outliner fanatic and will probably start with a basic outline and flesh it out as the novel develops.


How do you work?  Are you a pantser or are you and outliner.  If an outliner, then to what extent?

SHARE YOUR APPROACH and talk about what works for you.









  1. I used to do a lot of planning in my dead, but I never did a real outline. I had to put down two projects (trouble with seeing the forest for the trees after so many rewrites) and I decided to write a discovery draft. It’s been really freeing and sort of fun to just write and see where it takes me. It took me in a completely different direction than I anticipated, and the book is way sadder and heavier than I meant it to be, but I’ve been enjoying the process!


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