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What is the Best Path to Successful Writing?

Pantsing or Plotting?

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It’s a good idea to decide how you will prepare to write before you get going.

Nothing like setting yourself up with excellent writing habits from the get-go.
Save yourself a lot of heartache.

As I settled into steady writing, I realized I that a change was needed. I had to find a middle way. I want to plot out my manuscript, leaving room for some free reign.

My nature is as a pantser.

Let me tell you how it worked out for me.

It didn’t.
It was like free falling from space.

Ever watch those YouTube videos of skydivers!?

At first, they fall straight down, then veer off in one direction, maybe spin around for a while, straighten out only to veer off in another direction. Granted they at least, knew where they intended to land.

I too could see the end of my story — the landing, but I couldn’t tell you how I would get there. As a result, and like the good ADHD woman I am, I veered off in all kinds of directions, spinning and turning but no idea that my story would end — land far, far, away — lost.

When I read back what I had written, was I ever bummed. “How do I salvage this?” I would ask myself again and again.

Remember the definition of insanity? Keep doing the same thing over again expecting a different outcome?

Mmm hmmm ‘nough said.

Now you know why I need to change up how I proceed with my own writing. And that is how the middle way was born into my writing life.

No more writing by the seat of my pants.

My super power is my ability to hyper-focus. (It’s a gift from my ADHD). However, when it comes to outlining that super power can derail me. If I over focus on my outline I become overwhelmed. If I pants it, I run off into tangents . Sigh.

What to do?

Find a combination where I use from both methods, learn how to outline better, or find a way to stay focused when pantsing my story?

Now that last idea is hilarious! Me? Stay focused?

Ugh, I’m so impatient.

Are you?

l’m the type that just wants to get to the good part. I want to dive into my writing.

Dr. Phil would ask, “How’s that workin’ for ya?”

It’s not, it hasn’t…I remind myself of that insanity definition again.

I just need to suck it up and outline.

It can’t be that bad.

Back in my teaching days, I had to teach outlining to my students. If I taught my students how to outline, surely I can figure it out for my fiction.

Remember those traditional outlines we had to learn in school? That great big Roman numeral one followed by the thesis statement, drop down a line, indent four spaces and write the letter “a” ) followed by a supporting idea or fact, drop down/hit enter indent four spaces again and write your next supporting idea/fact?

Well, in creative writing, creative non-fiction, sci-fi, etc. you can outline the very same way. The old numeral one can be the theme of your story, the drop down and indented sections can be the actions for that scene or chapter, the next one down the conflict and so on.

Not bad. Right?

Well, the first time I tried this I got stuck after completing about three chapters. I got lost when I looked down at my outline.

Um, how do I show the beginning, middle, and the end?

Did I tell you I am dyslexic? Let me tell you; that doesn’t help. However, I am determined to figure it out.

I should mention being dyslexic isn’t mandatory for getting lost in your outline.

Okay, here is a way to sketch out (I like that phrase as lets me know my outline is not carved in stone) a workable outline for those of you who struggle like I do. I get so antsy to get writing!

It makes the writing life much easier to have a good plan.
In fact, generally speaking, there is nothing like a good plan, with backup plans, of course.

I think I have discovered a way to outline that works for me. I decided to follow the story ARC.

Below is fictional example.

Theme- love, jealousy/greed.

The Initial Exposition

The story takes place in a family owned restaurant in Western MA.

a) Xavier is introduced-owner and chef.

b) Ylana (Protagonist) is introduced-manager of the front of the house.

c) Zayle is introduced-. He is the sous chef.

Inciting Action

a) Xavier is found dead in the freezer.

b) Zayle is arrested for his murder.

c) Ylania must prove Zayles innocence.

Rising Action

a) Ylania is stone-walled by the cop in charge. Conflict.

b) Zayle gets moved to a maximum security prison by a paperwork mix up. Conflict.


Ylania must fight the system to find justice for Zayle.

a) Zayle must find a way to find to Ylania and keep himself alive at the same time.

b) An old friend of Zayles turns up who just happens to have worked for the courts.

Falling Action

a) Zayle discovers a childhood friend is in the cell next to his; he knows all the ins and outs of the prison system.

b) Ylania makes headway and discovers who the real murderer is.


a) Ylania solves the murder; the Garde Mange Chef (Antagonist) did it!

b) Through the assistance of his friend, Zayle meets with the Warden just after the Warden received a call about the screw-up.

c) Ylania and Zayle marry and buy out the restaurant.

d) All live happily ever after.

Okay, not the greatest plot but you get the gist.

What I like about this is that I have an image to go by. I can see the parts of my story right there, in front of me. I can fill it in, elaborate on what I have. I can do some free writing to flush out a scene before I write it. Or sketch out a back story to one of my characters. In this way, I can combine the above outline with some free writing — pantsing with some parameters in place to help me stay on point.

Before I go there is one other wonderful exercise I learned from David Morrell, author of First Blood (which became Rambo in the film series)

Every day when he sits down to write he asks himself questions.

“How are you doing?”
“How’s the writing going?
“Having trouble?”
“What do you think would happen if…?” or, ” How about if such and such happened?”
“What if” questions, which are perfect for unlocking your brain, waking up your imagination.

Try using one these techniques or some combination and let me know how it goes.

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