Have I Discovered the Perfect Plotting Method for Pantsers?

Pantsers, where are you? Hooray for having no idea what we’re doing!

That’s what I always thought being a pantser meant. When I penned books in my younger years, I never even touched an outline. I thought I simply didn’t need one – I could write a book from beginning to end flawlessly.

But I’ve come to realise recently that I did have an outline in those days – in my head. I had the time and space back then to think endlessly about my stories. And the brain outlines did have lots of gaps where the story ended up not being so great (hence the reason why none of the 5 books I wrote in middle/high school has ever seen the light of day).

As an adult with a life, family, and job, I don’t have as much brain space as I once did. As much as I hate outlines, I figured out a few years ago that I probably needed one. My old method of winging an entire book off of a single idea just doesn’t work for me anymore.

But there are two main reasons I’m a pantser:

1) I like to discover things as I’m writing and give the story room to grow
2) I simply can’t figure out all the details ahead of time

So how do you outline if you’re a pantser? I mean, we’re all pantsers for a reason, right? Honestly, I think it depends from person to person. Different outlining methods will click with different people. But I recently tried a new method that really worked for me. After using this outlining process, I started writing my story without fear, able to be creative and fill in details on the fly without being completely lost with nowhere to go.

Is this the magic plotting method for pantsers? Let’s find out.

Yes, It’s Story Grid…Again

You all probably know about my obsession with Story Grid by now. It’s not so much a “new” method of looking at storytelling as much as looking at storytelling as a whole and figuring out the science and psychology behind what works and what doesn’t.

While doing Story Grid research on genre for my next book, I came across a wonderful synthesis of genre and the 5 Storytelling Commandments that turns into a skeletal outline. Each genre has obligatory scenes, right? You read a genre because you know what it will be like.

So my current story is in the Action Genre. Under this section on the Story Grid site, they fuse the Action Genre’s obligatory moments with the 5 Storytelling Commandments to create 20 “rough sketch” scenes that make up the whole book.

“Huh, that’s interesting,” I thought. “Could this be…an outline?”

The Method

These 20 scenes aren’t advertised as an outline, but I think they can certainly work like one. Unfortunately, Story Grid hasn’t outlined these 20 scenes for every genre, but I think it’s applicable across the board; you just need to adjust it for your genre’s obligatory scenes.

I decided to try it, and almost instantly, it clicked. It’s one of the least stressful plotting methods I’ve ever tried. Here’s why it works:

  1. It kept my ideas flowing
  2. It didn’t get me hung up on details
  3. It gave me a bare-bones story that I can still discover as I write
  4. It set the foundation for a good, rounded-out story
  5. It gave me a lot of good info to take to the character planning stage

I also love this outlining method because it’s genre-specific. You’re not just filling in some generic boxes, but something that’s tailored to your story and based around the key scenes in your genre.

Try It Yourself!

Don’t just believe me; take a look here at the bottom of the page for Story Grid’s 20 Skeletal Scenes “outline.” Even if your story is in a different genre, the 5 Storytelling Commandments still apply, so I believe you can tweak it a bit to insert your genre’s obligatory scenes. This outlining method really clicked with me as a pantser, so I hope you’ll give it a try.

What’s your favourite outlining method? Let me know in the comments?

And if you’re having trouble getting started with your book, check out my services! I offer both book coaching and feedback.

Happy writing!

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Photo by Hal Gatewood on Unsplash

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When you write as much as I do, you have to take frequent breaks from sitting. A standing desk (not a whole desk, but a mini desk that will sit on top of my current desk with my laptop, keyboard, and mouse and extend upward) will allow me to continue working while maintaining that good blood flow to my brain. Thank you so much for your support that allows me to keep producing free content. God bless you! ♥️ E.J.


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