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Take Off Your Pants! Outline Your Books for Faster, Better Writing
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Take Off Your Pants! Outline Your Books for Faster, Better Writing

4.25  ·  Rating details ·  2,022 ratings  ·  380 reviews
When it comes to writing books, are you a “plotter” or a “pantser?” Is one method really better than the other?

In this instructional ebook, 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, a
Kindle Edition, Revised Edition, 108 pages
Published March 10th 2015 by Running Rabbit Press
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4.25  · 
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 ·  2,022 ratings  ·  380 reviews

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Rhonda Mason
May 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Great book. I sold the first novel of a trilogy, but was really stuck on writing book 2. (I'd been trying to pants it) I was looking for a book on plotting and a friend recommended this to me. I'm so glad I bought it!

What I loved:

- It was strictly nuts and bolts. It was a hands-on "how-to" without too much theory or fluff. (As a writer of some years, I've read plenty on theory, I was just looking for something to get me un-stuck)

- Short/to the point. I read it in one sitting

- Gets you working ri
Apr 22, 2015 rated it it was ok
Somewhat less than okay, but it has enough points to elevate it above a 1* rating.

Mike ( and Jack ( say it quite well. I agree with everything they write and will add that a lot of the reasoning in this guide ultimately comes across as waffling.

I see no reason why characters (and stories) built the way Hawker details would be any more compelling than those done differently.

Not every protagonist needs to start out
Dee Arr
May 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reference
Full disclosure would be admitting that the majority of the stories/books I have written (or attempted to write) remain unfinished. Most of these endeavors ended up in an accidental scrap heap because something didn’t feel right, and I wasn’t sure how to fix the problem plaguing each work.

That is, until I stumbled across Libbie Hawker’s “Take Off Your Pants” (thanks to David Gaughran, who noted this book in his third edition of “Let’s Get Digital”).

Ms. Hawker’s book is an eye-opener. Previous
Emma Sea
Basically, an OK book
But I wouldn't necessarily recommend to others.
All up I found some useful ideas in here.

Steelwhisper's review offers an interesting insight into the author. I recommend reading the comments.
Apr 13, 2015 rated it liked it
Useful book in terms of making you think more carefully about the construction of your book with two caveats:
1. Hawker uses her Pocahontas book as an example but never mentions that the book was already worked out to a great extent before she started doing her outline. By which I mean that when she comes to do the outline it's plain that this book hasn't suddenly popped into her mind, an impression she gives early on when she tells the publisher she can produce her next book in a few weeks.
2. I
Aug 01, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: about-writing
Where I got the book: purchased on Kindle.

I picked up Take Off Your Pants! in some deal or the other because I’d heard that it was popular, and I’d say its popularity is justified. I’m groping toward my own perfect outlining method and consequently paying attention to what’s worked for other people. You have to understand that all books about writing say essentially the same things, but they all say those things differently enough that you either end up confused or you gather together lots and l
Mar 23, 2015 rated it it was ok
I don't usually leave reviews (only ratings so I know what books I read and when, and what I thought of them), but I feel bad leaving an "it was okay" rating.

I thought there wasn't enough support for the claims in the book. There was no analysis of books/movies that didn't have the Story Core and did poorly. And no attempt to find stories that were missing some or all of these elements, yet still did well (Zombie Fallout, The Martian).

And finally, there was no evidence presented that writing a s
Mar 22, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
A very nice and short book about plotting your story. I'd recommend writers who struggle with outlining and who get lost in their stories halfway through to take a look at this.

Helpful book, might change a pantsers opinion on plotting. But ultimately it's very short and not much new information to be found for people who have read a lot about the craft already.

I've re-read this after writing seriously and almost every day for another two years, and I must say, the information is a great refreshe
Jakk Makk
Jun 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: despicable pantsers
Recommended to Jakk Makk by: Robo-Amazon
Dramatica would say this book is female mental sex. SPOILED: Harry Potter, Game of Thrones, Lolita, and Charlottes' Web, good thing those are sucky books, right? Gran Mof Tarkin is the Star Wars antagonist, Vader is the contagonist, the author should know this.

Who writes an outlining book in cloud style? How about starting with an outline instead of an authority pitch? I want to hate on this book more, but I'm going to dial it down, because a great many people could benefit from it.

Writing a b
Beverlee  Couillard
Dec 12, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I wish I'd bought this is paperback instead of Kindle version. It's GOOD. I think it will work for many writers. When I wrote and published "Annabelle," this was strictly writing by the seat of my pants. So is my second book...but that seems to have deserted me. So, I'm going to give this baby a shot. The only reason this is not rated 5 starts, it it's so darn hard to go back and forth on a Kindle. I've yet to figure out making notes on that thing. I love my Kindle for reading...for reference it ...more
Gillian Kevern
Feb 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Hawker's optimistic and relentlessly positive approach was just what I needed today (note to self: what do you expect if you keep reading depressing books?). I've got a misbehaving plot, and Hawkin's gave me exactly what I wanted -- a fresh perspective on it and some guidelines for sorting it out. I have got most of an outline and a much better feeling about my story.
Feb 14, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: writing, non-fiction
I bought this book because it was cheap proposed to be a guide to outlining, which I dearly need to learn. Turns out the author has a few assumptions about what makes a good story and requires the reader to agree with those assumptions in order to use her method. Thus, if you're not interested in:
* Writing heroic journeys into your story;
* Writing characters with a gigantic flag signaling their flaws;
* Basing your entire story into your character's quest to be "perfect" (as in, get rid of that c
Jul 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
As a typical pantster, I bought this book in the hope that it would help organise my planning - or rather lack of. I took it with me on a writers' retreat and found it useful in so much as it guides you through a method of plotting that leaves the story flexible enough for the writer to change things as they go along.This suited me fine as I've always found it difficult to write if I know how the story ends. This way there is no chance of getting bored before you finish writing your story and th ...more
T.R. Goodman
Mar 31, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, writing
Review Originally Appeared at

Like many authors, I’ve worked my way through all manner of craft books in an attempt to streamline my process and make it easier to convince a reluctant muse to give up the story for whatever project I happen to be working on. From Million Dollar Outlines to On Writing to Writing the Breakout Novel and beyond, every one of them offered valuable insights on how to proceed, but none of them helped me convince that stubborn muse to loosen her grip. As I d
Jun 03, 2016 rated it liked it
I’ve always been a pantser i.e writing my fiction by the seat of my pants and refusing to plan. I felt planning would disrupt the flow of creativity, but increasingly I’ve been becoming frustrated by my lack of progress and felt planning may be the key to changing this. Time will tell if it’ll work, but I have already begun to implement the advice here and will let you know in a future post if it’s been successful.

I first became interested in Libbie Hawker when she was featured on a YouTube chan
Kate McMurray
Jun 16, 2015 rated it liked it
Some good points made here—I particularly agree with her argument that only scenes that actually do something belong in the book—but I found her approach somewhat rigid.

Look, I'm a plotter, so I wasn't reading to be convinced; I read this book as research for a class I'm putting together. I like Hawker's approach generally, although it felt restrictive. I decided to use her structure to outline a book I'm planning to see what would happen, and sometimes I agreed with her approach, and sometimes
Katy Upperman
Mar 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
This craft book is clear, concise, and eye-opening. Basic premise: Outline your novel using your main character’s flaw as a jumping off point and central focus, since “story” is all about a protagonist’s emotional journey. So smart, right? With the exception of Save the Cat, Take Off Your Pants is the most helpful “how to write” book I’ve read. I had so many duh moments, and took tons of notes. It’s a quick read with straight-forward, easily applicable suggestions that just make sense. Libbie Ha ...more
Apr 25, 2015 rated it liked it
I'll write a more comprehensive review later, but I read this earlier this year and just forgot to mark it. It's a decent guide to outlining and plotting stories, albeit quite short. I still liked the methodology and expansion that Libbie Hawker provided in this, but I'll admit that there were some narratives in the same vein that I've gotten more out of than this one.

3 to 3.5 stars. Need to meditate over my full reactions for it, but nonetheless added to my writing library.
Oct 26, 2015 rated it did not like it
Shelves: non-fiction
This system might work for the author but I think it's too inflexible for most people. I thought some of the references to the writer's own work came off as a bit pretentious also. Skip this book and read one of the million other books written on outlining.
Laura Hughes
Feb 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Brilliant! Got me thinking about my story from a new perspective and stop obsessing over plot. Thanks Benedict Patrick for the recommendation!
Kirk Hanley
Mar 23, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Even though it's a recent addition to the writing manual category, this book is rapidly growing a following. And for a good reason - it's great! Filled with practical, actionable advice that you haven't heard a thousand times before, Libbie Hawker will give you the tools you need to outline your novel quickly (maybe in less than a day) and then get writing. Better yet, you'll know that you have a solid story that will please readers. If you're looking for an encouraging book by an author who wri ...more
Elena Hartwell
Interesting perspective on outlining a novel. I think most writers will find some useful information in this easy-to-read "how to." I'm not sure, however, that it wouldn't be a crutch for an inexperienced writer to turn out a mediocre book. The writing process is not uniform from writer to writer or even project to project. It's a bit formulaic for my process. I understand the want to write faster, but I hesitate to encourage someone who needs this kind of instruction to use it in place of disco ...more
Kara Jorgensen
Aug 19, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Great ideas to get you started

Take Off Your Pants sets up a guided method for outlining your novel. The book is straightforward and open enough that writers of diverse genres can utilize the technique.
At times, the authors authority could be a turn off to some writers when it seems as if the material presented is the only way to do things, BUT overall, the method seems sound and I look forward to trying it.
Stephanie Bibb
Oct 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I read Libbie Hawker's Gotta Read It!, which was really informative and useful, so I decided to give Take Off Your Pants! a try. Again, I was satisfied with the information present. It clearly showed how you can outline a story around a basic concept and keep the outline tight, while also showing the emotional story arc's development. I enjoyed her explanation of the "Ally" character, which was something of a new concept for me. Plus, her explanation of the "cymbal crash" moment at the end of a ...more
Laura Durham
Apr 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
Very helpful book when thinking about character arc and pacing. I really liked the way Libbie outlined the structure she uses to write better and faster. Great, practical guide!
Ariel Masters
Jan 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
This was a great little book! It taught me several things. I don't think I'll be using her method solely by itself, but she really did help me with several struggle areas. Thank you so much, author!
Big Joe  Rossi
Jun 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: writing
Liked this book on writing but was a little confusing to me. Had to read a few things two, three times.
Sep 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: makes-you-think
This is an excellent little book for any writer who wants to be more of a plotter and less of a pantser. the system she proposes is not new, but is presented in a concise form in such an easy to read format that it really struck a chord with me. It makes so much sense and I'll definitely be using this process for my next book. A very worthwhile investment!
Patrick Sherriff
Jul 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: on-writing
This is a short and sweet, nuts and bolts, wysiwyg approach to structuring a novel. You could therefore take issue with it for over-simplifying the process of writing, or take it for what it is, which is a workable template for constructing a compelling novel. Is it the best, or only template out there? Of course not, but it helped me clarify what I need to do to make my latest work in progress sing. What I particularly liked was Hawker's focus on the importance of creating a character with a fl ...more
Graeme Ing
Apr 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: writing
This is a great book if you have never outlined your book and want to, or you want to try another outlining technique. The author has drawn upon Truby's superb "Anatomy of story" and boiled it down to its essence, and molded it to what she has learned from her own writing experience. Fast read, very easy to follow and excellent advice. She even gives examples from well known books.

I think you'll like this method of outlining. As a Truby fan already, I very much appreciated how she made his detai
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Libbie was born in Rexburg, Idaho and divided her childhood between Eastern Idaho's rural environs and the greater Seattle area. She presently lives in Seattle, but has also been a resident of Salt Lake City, Utah; Bellingham, Washington; and Tacoma, Washington. She loves to write about character and place, and is inspired by the bleak natural beauty of the Rocky Mountain region and by the fascina ...more
“The character’s flaw will shape every other aspect of your book. The flaw is the engine that drives your entire book, from hooking your reader’s interest to propelling the plot to its climax—so choose your flaw with care, and make it count.” 5 likes
“When the audience understands that the main character has a very serious need to change his own heart and mind, the hook is set, and the audience is irrevocably invested.” 2 likes
More quotes…