Plotting a Novel: Part 3 - Plotting & Outlining vs Pantsing

A conversation with authors Valerie Biel & T.K. Sheffield

Throughout 2023 writing instructor and pre-published author Tracey Kathryn (T.K.) Sheffield and I will be offering a blog series on plotting from the beginning developmental stage through the messy middle and all the way to the end, including editing advice on how to fix plot problems in a completed manuscript.

In Part 1, Tracey lists wonderful resources that are great for those that are new to writing or looking for a new approach to plotting in: "Plotting a Novel: Resources for Those Just Starting Out."

In Part 2, Tracey discusses how to use plotlines, tropes, and conflict to test your story ideas: "Testing Novel Ideas

And, now in Part 3, Tracey and I discuss the virtues of outlining your novel vs. pantsing (aka: writing by the seat of your pants.) See what sides we take in this debate in the video below.

You probably noticed that throughout this video we talk about inciting incidents, plot points, rising action, three-act structure and more, so we thought it would be helpful to have a diagram available that shows these.

Tracey also talks about a Lee Child writing course in the video. You can find that course at this link:

Additional resources on the pros and cons of plotting vs pantsing:

► From Writers Edit: The Pros and Cons of Plotting and Pantsing

► From Writers Digest: Writing Mistakes Writers Make Choosing Between Plotting or Pansting:

► From The Write Practice: Plotter Vs. Panster – When to Plot, When to Pants, and When to Combine Them

► What if Your Novel Doesn’t Fit the Three-Act Structure: This blog post is fabulous and compares so many different plot structures we all refer to regularly.

We hope these resources help you in your writing efforts!! Next up, Valerie will write a blog post about the difference between your story’s hook and its inciting incident, and Tracey will give tips on how to tackle the Messy Middle in May.

Happy writing! ~Tracey & Valerie

T.K. Sheffield, MA

Pre-published author, The Seymour Agency

I write books for readers who want to laugh and escape.

The Backyard Model Cozy Mysteries: A retired fashion model uses her skill at spotting posers to solve murders in her touristy Wisconsin town. (The first book in the series is on submission to publishers.)

The Valentine Lines: Cupid, minor god of love, is upset by the dismal state of romance; he blames dating apps. The god persuades—tricks?—his Aunt Hera, temperamental CEO of Mt. Olympus, Inc., into letting him move from drafty Olympus to a quaint small town. Ironically, the love god is struck by his own arrow and falls for a beautiful cafe owner. The relationship surprises his romance-business clients and angers his aunt. It’s a magical, fun, romantic comedy.

Follow Tracy on InstagramFacebook, and Pinterest for writing tips, author news, and to share my Wisconsin backyard.


Valerie Biel 

Award-winning author of the Circle of Nine series, writing educator, book editor, and author coach. (and if you're reading this -- you're already on my website -- so hang around and check out my books or other blog posts!)

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