On Taking Off One’s Pants
This last couple of weeks has been an interesting time for my writing. It’s not gone as well as hoped, simply due to my studies taking more time than expected, but I reckon it’s been useful nonetheless. I’ve spent much of my writing time working with a new (for me) outlining method – and that will be the subject of today’s post.
The method in question was developed by one Libbie Hawker, and is described in her book Take Off Your Pants – a fine title for a book if I ever heard one. This one was brought to my attention by a certain Mobewan, and I’m very glad to have read through it. Hawker’s method, essentially, is to outline the main characters first and then build the novel around them. The plot, then, is tailored around character arcs and story themes rather than the other way around – and is therefore among the very last things considered.
This is all quite different from the Snowflake method, which I’ve used before. In the snowflake method, plot very much is king: most snowflake steps are aimed at fleshing out the plot, with character arcs and themes a secondary consideration. The snowflake method is also quite a bit more rigid that one Hawker proposes, being aimed towards producing a precise outline before writing begins; Hawker’s method, by contrast, leaves a lot more wiggle-room.
I tried applying Hawker’s method on my current novel, and the results were enlightening. The beginning and final thirds barely changed, since they already went well with the character arcs and themes I’d written down. The middle third, by contrast, had a fair amount of content trimmed from it – with only a little added. Much of the cut content, I’m thinking, will be used in a future project; in the meantime, I now have a much more streamlined outline from which to produce future drafts.
So, which method do I prefer: Hawker’s, or the Snowflake? Well, having now (briefly) dabbled with both, I prefer Hawker’s method by a fair margin. It seems substantially quicker, for one thing, with a basic outline being do-able in only one or two reasonably-sized writing sessions; the Snowflake, if done all the way through, takes a lot longer. Plus, the structure of Hawker’s outlining makes it (to me) much easier to detect extraneous scenes before the writing starts – something which, really, can only be a good thing.
I’ve written a bit of actual fiction here and there, too, so I’m slowly getting back into it all. I’ve still got a long road ahead of me before this novel is done, but I’m sure I’ll get there. Eventually.