Skip to main content

#atozchallenge : O is for #Outlining #fiction #writing #quotes

Theme: Quotes from Authors and Bookish People about Writing

I’m going a little dizzy with blog-visiting rounds. How are you guys holding up?

Today, on Amlokiblogs, we discuss Outlining— a controversial topic at best, because while some fiction writers swear by it, others go into writer’s block when faced with the prospect of an outline.

So here’s what successful writers have to say about outlining:

“Everything is planned. I spent a long time outlining.
It’s the only way I know to get all the ducks in a row. . . . The
research is the easiest. The outline is the most fun because you can do
anything. The first draft is the hardest, because every word of the
outline has to be fleshed out. The rewrite is very satisfying, because I
feel that everything I do is making the book a little better.”
— Ken Follett.

The best time for planning a book is while you’re doing the dishes.”— Agatha Christie

“In the planning stage of a book, don’t plan the ending. It has to be earned by all that will go before it.” Rose Tremain

“I am having a hard time with the book. Have enough paper written to make
it complete, but must do all over again. I just didn’t know where I was
going and when I got there I saw that I had come to the wrong place. That’s the hell of being the kind of writer who cannot plan anything,
but has to make it up as he goes along and then try to make sense out of
it. If you gave me the best plot in the world all worked out I could
not write it. It would be dead for me.”
— Raymond Chandler

“I always have a basic plot outline, but I like to leave some things to be decided while I write.” — J. K. Rowling

“I plan everything.” — Orhan Pamuk
Are you a plotter or a pantser? Do you believe in outlines? If you’re a reader, not a writer, have you ever wondered whether writers write with outlines or without?

Damyanti Biswas

Damyanti Biswas is the author of You Beneath Your Skin and numerous short stories that have been published in magazines and anthologies in the US, the UK, and Asia. She has been shortlisted for Best Small Fictions and Bath Novel Awards and is co-editor of the Forge Literary Magazine. Her literary crime thriller series, the Blue Mumbai, is represented by Lucienne Diver from The Knight Agency. Both The Blue Bar and The Blue Monsoon were published in 2023.

I appreciate comments, and I always visit back. If you're having trouble commenting, let me know via the contact form, or tweet me up @damyantig !

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


  • I like both Rose Tremain's idea and J K Rowling's. I like to have a good idea where I'm going or I feel I have no direction, but once underway, diversions are so numerous I have to brainstorm them as a group, to keep myself sane.
    A simple outline serves me well, whether it be a short story or a novel.

  • Tui Snider says:

    I'm a mixture of pantsing and plotting. The plotting calms me down when I feel anxious about a project, but I will toss it out the window the moment something feels better to me!

    Of course, with nonfiction, I have to do more plotting, but even then I don't go overboard.

    ~Tui Snider~
    I'm dropping by after seeing your blog mentioned on Twitter!
    @TuiSnider on Twitter
    My blog: Tui Snider's Offbeat & Overlooked Travel
    I am also part of the #StoryDam team, a friendly writing community!

  • Big time outliner here. If Hollywood pre-plans every shot before they film, why not with my writing? 🙂

  • I am half-half. I like to have an outline of the main plot points and where the individual scenes are concerned I am a pantser. For this current WIP, I am going for a detailed outline with every scene planned out.

  • Jocelyn Rish says:

    I'm a definite pantser. I think the Raymond Chandler quote sums up how I feel – if I plan it all out, there's nothing fun to discover as I write.

    Hope you’re having fun with the A to Z challenge,

  • I'm usually a pantser, but will plot at times. They both serve a purpose, I guess, although pantser wins most of the time.

  • I've a plotter these days, but the ending almost always changes!

  • I'm an outliner, but I do tweak my outline as I work through it as well, though – the outline just helps me understand my direction and sort out my ideas 🙂

    As for blog visiting for A to Z, my list of blogs I'm enjoying is getting longer by the day, about 2 hours of visiting a day. It's fun, but tiring ;P

    Sophie's Thoughts & Fumbles – A to Z Ghosts
    Fantasy Boys XXX – A to Z Drabblerotic

  • I have a loose outline which helps keep me in order. Without out, I'd feel like I'm in a foreign country without a map.

  • I'm no writer, but I imagine, if I were one, I could never stick to an outline. I find that too limiting, in the sense that it would lessen scope for creativity. I would like to go the bohemian way 🙂 Good luck with the rest of the challenge!

    Blog hopping from the A-Z challenge –

  • Ken Follett, I hear you!!!

  • Cool post 😉

  • The one time I tried to do an outline, I ended up going a completely different route during the first day of writing. Now I have basic ideas, but that's about it.

  • I'm a plotter, I have to have a plan or I won't get anything written.

  • I remember well the question, "I love these characters, Stepheny, but where are you going?" Unable to outline, that's always my dilemma. I admire those who get it all together ahead of time, and I certainly do research up front and basic decisions about setting, POV. I love the quote theme you are using for the #Challenge. I will be following you now. If you have time or interest, I'm writing about gardening and related topics this month. Try and stop by.

  • klahanie says:

    Hey Damyanti,

    Have you missed me? Waiting for another of my um award winning comments during the amazing alphabet challenge? Wait no more! Yep, I'm here!

    Glad to see you are dizzy making the blogging rounds. I'm getting dizzy commenting on a challenge I wish would go away. Please, Damyanti, make it STOP! Thank you! 🙂

    The best time to plan a book is when I'm not planning a book. I'm totally relaxed. Have no guidelines or outlines. And Lee, you can come and do my ironing. Think of the added inspiration to your already wondrous writing.

    Bye Damyanti.

    Gary 🙂

    • D Biswas says:

      AZ is going too fast and furious now for anyone to stop it Gary. But you're right, I do wait for your comments with bated breath and swoon once I read them ;). Sighhh

    • klahanie says:

      Hi human, Damyanti,

      And speaking of bated breath, here's some lovely doggy breath! 🙂 Of course, the fast and furious world of the alphabet fixation can be simplified. I hope that next year you will grace me and change allegiance to my shy, humble challenge.

      Pawstive wishes,

      Penny the cordial host of the Alphabark Challenge! 🙂

  • cleemckenzie says:

    No wonder I'm an Agatha Christie fan. Planning a new novel and doing dishes go together beautifully. Ironing isn't a bad partner either.

    • D Biswas says:

      I don't plan novels while cooking but chapters seem to sort themselves out better if I alternate writing with cooking!

  • I love J.K. Rowling's quote–that's how I do it:) In reference to the quote by Rose Tremain, I've heard so many times to always know the end from the beginning. (But you don't always have to stick to your ending or your outline, but you better have something planned:-) Great quotes on outlining!

  • Tracy Jo says:

    I'm actually a little bit of both….does that mean that I'm not a finisher? 🙂 Great post.