Believe it or not, I used to be a pantser.
For non-writer types that term might be a bit confusing. Essentially, a pantser is a writer who doesn’t outline and writes “by the seat of their pants”. I did this with one successful outcome (Bloodstream) out of many unsuccessful ones. I cannot tell you the frustration when I would lose steam halfway through a project, or forget the basics that I had in my head at the time that I began a new project.
Since then, I have been trying to find the “right” outlining method for me. There isn’t a one size fits all outlining template out there. Actually, there are many, and though each one seems to work to a degree there has never quite been one that has fit like a glove.
So I began to pull what does work and leave out the pieces that don’t. I decided to snatch up a few (cheap) empty binders and designated them for my novel projects. These are what I call my book manuals. So what goes in a book manual, you ask?
Each area has designated information. Outline, the characters, and the setting are the important parts of my manual. I don’t feel I need anything aside from these three things so I haven’t added anymore. I’m keeping it simple.
So while this particular project is set in modern day Earth, it’s nice to add a few bits of information in case I need a quick fact about the State my book is primarily set in. Plus, it keeps me from Googling it and then getting lost in research. Distractions are limited that way.
The character portion will have detailed character sheets, and maybe a portrait or two of what my character looks like to keep them in mind when I’m writing them. This way, I can just double check the manual to make sure I got the info right the first time.
The outline portion is a beast. It hosts practically the entire story itself; main plot, plot twists, timeline, scene outlines, and practically anything else I need to remember. This is also the most flexible and ever-changing portion of my manual. I’ll add the bits I need, or take away what I decide needs to be discarded as the book progresses.
This is still a huge work in progress for me, but so far it’s working. I’m so excited to delve into this novel with my book manual at my side. But, for now, I am still filling it with the information I know is still needed in order for me to begin.