Blog, What's Up Wednesday

Struggling with pants: Learning to outline stories

Struggling with pants: Learning to outline stories

I’m not great at this pantsless writing thing. My legs get cold. Oh, and the pseudo-leather of my office chair gets sweaty and sticky. Plus, if someone knocks on the door, I have to explain why I’m sitting around in a heavy sweater but naked below the waist.

Something is wrong here. Let me Google this…

Okay, so the pants/no-pants writing thing isn’t literal. Check. That’s my problem.

So, the joke—which I am attributing to Libbie Hawker—comes from the writer slang of pantsing a book.

The more professional term might be “discovery writing.”

Two weeks ago, I mentioned how bad I am at plotting. I’ve always been a pantser and the whole outlining thing was never in my wheelhouse.

So, I dove into my library, looking for the expert advice that made sense.

Three books stand out as re-read ready: Take off your Pants! by Libbie HawkerThe Story Grid by Shawn Coyne, and Tick-Tock Plot by Jacqueline Garlick. (Those are affiliate links, for the record.)

These are books I’ve read and learned from. They are books I have attempted to carry out the systems in, but never fully embraced.

And, yes, I know The Story Grid isn’t a book on outlining, but you can find good information on plotting. I used it to help plan It Happened in Georgia, and that story wrote itself.

They have something else in common. Even though success at using the techniques still eludes me, I’ve helped other authors work through issues in their stories with them. Actually, as it turns out, I’m pretty good at helping someone workshop a story that way. Maybe the trick here is cloning myself. But, I’m not ready to discuss the metaphysical issues yet.

The point is, I’m working on figuring this out. I believe this is the secret to creating the stories I want to tell.

But, I’m still wrapping my head around it.

Published by M.A. Brotherton

M.A. Brotherton is a writer, blogger, artist, and fat-kid from the suburbs of Kansas City, Missouri. He’s tasted a little bit of everything the Midwest has to offer, ranging from meth-tweaking rednecks in massive underground cave complexes to those legendary amber waves of grain. When he’s not writing, he spends most of his time screwing around on the internet.