Outlining is an elementary skill in writing, allowing you to see things in an organized overview. In novel writing, outlining is necessary, or not, depending on who you ask. You might be surprised to know that there are terms for the people in Camp Outline and No Outline, or the group of plotters and architects versus pantsers and gardeners.
However, no matter which side you're on, LivingWriter will have a solution prepared for you, so read on to find what camp interests you the most, and we’ll tell you how LivingWriter can make your writing process better.
Many writers and blogs have exhaustively talked about the topic of plotters or architects and pantsers or gardeners to extreme detail. However, most discussions about this concept often miss out an important aspect of this classification: plotters and pantsers are not clear-cut categories of writers, but rather extreme ends of a broad spectrum.
Basic information about plotters and architects emphasize the almost-rabid obsession for outlining and planning. For architects, the novel materializes way before they write the first word of the manuscript, in the form of character sheets, outlines, and chapter summaries.
The plotter’s way has a certain science to it, requiring skills in writing effective outlines and creating relationships to major plot points and important character development points. Because of this rigorous methodology, plotters take a while before they ever start to work on the manuscript
However, these preparations are not ritualistic inceptions to novel writing. The documents created in the previous phase are tools to ease the hard part of finally writing the manuscript. With many challenges that may crop up in the midst of the writing phase, such as the devils of procrastination or the impending marathon of the middle, the plotter shields himself by aggressively referring to their notes at the sight of an upcoming writer’s block.
Plotters are amazing planners, and you can bet that every detail slipped into the crevices of innocent paragraphs are intentional devices to foreshadow future events in the novel or even into the series. These kinds of novels delight many readers, as their succeeding reads will always be a new journey of exploring all the hidden details that plotters have placed.
However, writers who may try to adhere to the architect’s philosophy might find themselves at a unique dilemma: as the manuscript has already manifested in the writer’s mind and documents, what point is there to continue writing the manuscript? Everything is already known and premeditated, and the element of surprise is lost to the most important variable to the equation: the writer.
At this point, you might want to learn about the other end of the spectrum: pantsers.
Pantsers are often depicted to be freer than architects, unrestricted by the bounds that architects themselves have created. Pantsers are called as such due to their tendency to fly by the seat of their pants, relying on writing instinct and bursts of inspiration to drive the writing process.They are also called gardeners, as their process is also compared to that of a gardener and their caring for a seed of an idea, nurturing the seed regardless of what it will grow into. Gardeners find themselves to be spectators to the growth of this idea, and their job is to narrate however this idea will grow into.
Unlike plotters, gardeners do not prepare anything aside from a single idea. Once they have this idea, they jump right into the manuscript, rabidly writing for as long as the idea grows. Gardeners are not interested in the cause and effect of events, but rather they invest in the consequences of character actions in the face of specific situations.
Because they rely on the spontaneous generation of ideas, pantsers are often said to write more creative novels (not to say that plotters don’t write creative ones, pantsers reliably write more of them). Since they are not inhibited by outlines and plots, they have a higher degree of freedom throughout the entire writing process.
However, as spontaneous as they are, they are also prone to the usual challenges presented by the dreaded writer’s block. They suffer the most on days when they are at a loss for words, hence they usually also take the most time in putting out a single manuscript. As they say, creativity needs patience. It can get too much, though.
Writers who read the previous paragraphs might quickly judge themselves to be either of the two, categorically identifying themselves to be methodical or unrestricted. However, we’d like to emphasize that the plotter-pantser categorization is, in fact, a spectrum. Rarely is a writer any of the two for life, and most writers exhibit traits of both in them.
With that said, there will be writers who might lean a bit more to one side. Dictated primarily by personal idiosyncrasies and preferences, writers should pick up traits that will improve their own writing routine, and tailor their workflow to match their tendencies as an outliner.
You don’t need to always plot everything to extreme detail as an architect, and neither should a gardener completely abandon outlining in favor of “lightbulb” moments. Outlining is a powerful skill to learn as a writer, and everyone should attempt at least a basic outline of their manuscript before diving into the manuscript.
LivingWriter and plotter-writers are effectively a match made in heaven. In fact, most features of LivingWriter encourage a certain degree of novel planning, and full-blown architect-writers would be hard-pressed to find a piece of software that just speaks directly to them and complements their workflow perfectly.
There’s a lot to talk about LivingWriter and plotters, so let’s start with the basic things.
There’s the Outlines and Chapters, our traditional plotting tool modernized. Outlines and Chapters allows writers to summarize scenes, chapters, and entire arcs in an intuitive view. Outlines and Chapters has four hierarchies of organization, starting with Sections, then Outlines, then Chapters, and finally Subchapters.
Outlines and Chapters allows writers to have a sort of summary notes for each hierarchy, which you’ll see right away when you go to the Board. However, if you ever so please, you can easily add more information by adding new note sections (yes, plural!) at the right sidebar. This allows you to get even more intricate with the details for each arc or chapter.
While the Manuscript sidebar on the left can show you a simplified hierarchy of your plot, the Board has more to offer aside from a bird’s-eye view of your novel. Personalized Statuses with customizable colors allow you to create a clear and structured writing workflow, and this can be especially helpful when you are collaborating with another writer or your editor.
There are also the amazing Plot Boards, with two choices between the Standard Grid and the Freeform Grid . We’ve talked about them extensively here (link previous post here), but the gist of the Plot Boards is that they are visual complementary tools to Outlines and Chapters, allowing you a linear view or a complex structure of your plot in a Board. They integrate seamlessly with Elements, too, so you can have a comprehensive view of your novel on a single screen.
Speaking of Elements, our premier character and systems notes feature is simply a class all on its own. Being able to add simple notes about characters and pertinent objects are standard, but Elements also allow you to add images (yes again, plural!), giving you that inspiration to help you visualize your characters.
Having two or more Elements allows you to establish Relationships, so you can have more nuanced notes about how each character (or object) interacts with other elements. You can also add Nicknames for your elements, and every time you mention a Nickname or the name of an Element, LivingWriter automatically detects it and pulls up the Element notes right at the sidebar, for easy access.
Plotters have everything they need and more with LivingWriter, and LivingWriter, as the name implies, is constantly evolving to meet the needs of every plotter out there.
We understand that LivingWriter’s headline features and the platform’s design philosophy are catered primarily to plotters and architects. However, we are making big strides to an approach that will also benefit the more spontaneous writers, who prefer to write from pure inspiration and not from outlines.
Pantsers are always on the lookout for new ideas, and part of new ideas is research. Maybe you’ve been bookmarking tens and hundreds of links to obscure tribes and rituals in hopes that you will one day use them. LivingWriter provides you with the Research Board to stop that inefficient system.
With the Research Board, writers can compile all their research notes into a single place. The Research Board can store article links, image files, document files, and of course, plain old text notes. This way, you don’t have to jump from bookmark to bookmark to get the information that you need. It’s all in LivingWriter, and wherever you can open LivingWriter, you can access the Research Board.
If Outlines and Chapters and Elements are overwhelming note-taking tools that don’t fit into your workflow, then the subtly-hidden Manuscript Notes and Global Notes might be more up your alley. These are simplified places to keep your notes, so that you don’t have to leave LivingWriter if you want to keep short notes or your notes don’t neatly fit into the other note-taking features.
With all these note-taking features in a single platform, you might forget where you ever stored this specific data. Search Notes is a powerful feature in LivingWriter that goes through Outlines and Chapters, Elements, Manuscript Notes, and Global Notes to search whatever information you need right now.
Of course, inspiration strikes any time, but if the old inspiration works better than the new inspiration, then you might want to grab your old work from history. LivingWriter thought of that ahead and implemented Revision History, a robust auto-saving feature that’s enabled with LivingWriter existing in the web.
Revision History automatically saves your work every time you finish typing, so on the off-chance you lose power, you don’t ever lose a single letter of work. At the same time, Revision History keeps a record of all the versions of your work, even those that you have deleted before. You can even have certain versions named, so that you can have an easier time browsing through the records.