Are You a Pantser or an Outliner?

Extreme Pantser – Someone who writes a story with no preconceived idea as to where the story is going or how it will end.

Extreme Outliner- Someone who plans out the entire story, scene by scene, before the first line is written.

Most of us fall somewhere between the two, but many writers will claim to be one or the other.

Every story needs three parts—a beginning, a middle, and an end.

If you are a pantser, you may have a vague idea where you want to go, but no specifics on how you will get there. For example:

Beginning: John meets Mary. After a period of mishaps, they fall in love.

Middle: Life gets in the way and they lose hope of ever getting married.

End:  Something happens to bring them together again and they live happily ever after.

If you are an outliner, you will not only know these three key parts of your story, but you will have most of the scenes laid out so you know how the story will move from point A, to point B, to point C. For example:

Beginning: John meets Mary

Scene. Mary stumbles into John on the subway and spills coffee on his new suit.

Scene. John takes Mary to a restaurant and discovers his wallet is missing. Mary has to pay for the meal.

Scene. John gets appendicitis just before they go to a concert and Mary stays with him in the hospital and takes him home afterward for some TLC.

Scene. While recuperating John realizes he loves Mary. She admits she loves him too.


Scene: John and Mary decide to get married in two months on their mutual birthday (mention earlier in story).

Scene: Shopping for wedding. Several outings with friends as they celebrate. John’s friends arrange bachelor party.

Scene: Two weeks before wedding, John gets the promotion he has dreamed of, but he must move across country. Mary’s mother becomes severely ill and Mary cannot leave her and must care for her younger sister. There is no solution and John and Mary have to sacrifice their love for each other.


A year goes by. Mary’s mother dies. John’s company decides to open a new division closer to home. Mary’s sister has grown and matured and wants Mary to pursue her love of John. The sister insists she wants to live with her aunt, who has always been like a mother to her. At last Mary and John can wed.

So, are you a pantser or an outliner? Do you think one approach is better than the other?

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