Is it better to write an outline first, or just write and figure out the structure later?

It’s often said there are two types of writers: plotters and pantsers. Plotters are those who write from an outline. Pantsers are those who write without an outline—they write by the seat of their pants.

So, is one approach better than another?


And can you use a mixture of both styles?

You bet.

I’m working with a client who’s writing a short book about mindfulness. We identified the target reader, and the publishing strategy. We figured out the length of the book, and how many chapters it will have. Then we worked out a structure for each chapter, so she can add in the stories, subtopics, and tips for the reader.

But she didn’t immediately fill in the outline. Knowing that the structure exists was enough for her to write—it gave her the incentive to “vent,” as she put it, or freewrite.

We reviewed the story she’d written, and pulled out the chapter themes and subtopics. It was necessary for her to write a bit to understand what she wanted to say in each chapter. Then she’ll fill out the outline, so she can keep moving forward with her book.

Rather than impose a structure on her, we’ve embraced an approach that will work for her writing style and busy life. Writing needs to feel possible.

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