My 2017 Holiday Read Part Two – Take Off Your Pants by Libbie Hawker

I’m a little behind the curve with this book. In fact, it was originally recommended to me by my good friend Rebecca Bradley, over a year ago. Sadly, at the time I was chasing deadlines and pushed it aside. But it seemed a good time to pick it up now, as the neck injury improves and I’m starting to think about easing myself back into writing.


Here’s the blurb:
When it comes to writing books, are you a “plotter” or a “pantser”? Is one method really better than the other? In this instructional book, author Libbie Hawker explains the benefits and technique of planning a story before you begin to write. She’ll show you how to develop a foolproof character arc and plot, how to pace any book for a can’t-put-down reading experience, and how to ensure that your stories are complete and satisfying without wasting any time or words.
Hawker’s outlining technique works no matter what genre you write, and no matter the age of your audience. If you want to improve writing speed, increase your backlist, and ensure a quality book before you even write the first word, this is the how-to book for you. Take off your pants! It’s time to start outlining. 
My thoughts:

In essence, this is a technical, non fiction book that extols the virtues of writing a detailed outline in order to improve the flow and efficiency of the novel writing process. It focuses on examining not only the plot, story core and character arc before you begin putting pen to paper, but also drawing up a detailed plan or outline to follow when writing your novel. It’s easy to follow, includes plenty of examples of literature to illustrate points and, I have to admit, her argument and methodology is very persuasive and makes a lot of natural sense.

I guess it’s that old ‘planner or panster’ debate, isn’t it? It depends if you are the kind of writer who likes to plan everything out fully in advance, or you prefer the flexibility of watching the characters develop as the story unfolds. Personally, I’ve never been much of a planner. I do work to an outline, recent contracts and deadlines have demanded it, but it’s more a loose three to four page story overview with some potted character histories alongside to make sure my characters are consistent and don’t suddenly change hair or eye colour, or such like! I feel this gives me room for manoeuvre as the novel progresses. However, I do tend to go off on a tangent at times and have been known to discard more words than I’ve actually written some days. And I’m a great believer that to improve is to learn, and there is always something new to learn about the bones of the writing process. So, I’ve decided to give it a go.

In the book, Hawker claims that using the method she shares she can now write an effective outline in around four hours, although she has written a string of books and perhaps had plenty of time to refine this art. I’m thinking my attempt might take a few days, or even a few weeks with my current project. Will the investment be worthwhile, speed up my writing and make me more efficient? Time will tell. But it’ll certainly be an interesting exercise to do. I’ll let you know how I get on.

Whether you are a plotter or a pantser, I’d recommend giving this short book a read to see what you think. And if you have tried Libbie’s method, do let me know how you’ve got on. You can reach me in the comments here, or on Twitter or Facebook.


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