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

4.26  ·  Rating details ·  2,708 ratings  ·  522 reviews
This is an alternate cover edition of ASIN B00UKC0GHA

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
Kindle Edition, 108 pages
Published March 10th 2015 by Running Rabbit Press
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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
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
Renaissance Kate
3.5 stars

My recent reading slump combined with difficulties in plantsing my book led me to step away from fiction and writing to pick up a book on craft.
Take Off Your Pants! has some great tips I'm definitely going to implement in my outlines, and I found it to be a quick but insightful read I'll be able to reference again and again.

The author's voice rubbed me the wrong way at times as she came off a bit patronizing, however this was not because she uses her own book as an example for her out
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
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 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
R.K. Gold
Jun 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
It’s important to learn a set of rules to writing before you break them. This was an incredibly straightforward guide to outlining a plot that makes sense and serves a purpose.
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
Feb 14, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction, writing
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
Lance Dale
Oct 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Excellent writing guide. It's a totally different approach than Stephen King's excellent book On Writing and is well worth checking out. ...more
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. ...more
Christine Nolfi
Sep 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
If you're serious about a career writing fiction, Take Off Your Pants is a must-have reference tool. Buy the paperback version--it will become a handy reference each time you outline a new book. My only regret is that I didn't discover this gem years ago, at the beginning of my career.

Hawker's step-by-step approach to outlining (based on The Story Core) will aid you in quickly drilling down to the essentials of your plot, and speed up the manuscript's development phase. Which will then speed up
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: writing, nonfiction
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
Feb 15, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Whenever I’m story planning and outlining a new novel, I like to read a book on craft I haven’t before. Just something to give me a new perspective on the process. This book was a quick read, and although it doesn’t dive very deep, it was quite helpful in its advice. It offers yet another way to assess your story and help ensure escalating tension for readers, thereby making them want to keep turning the pages.

I’m a big fan of Larry Brooks’s “Story Engineering,” along with the others in his seri
Kirsten McKenzie
Oct 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
For someone who has only ever "pantsed" a book, this was a real eye opener. There is plenty of valuable information in this and it will make a difference to how I write. I only purchased the ebook version, but for anyone else planning on buying this book, I think the paperback version would be better value. I am now going to order the paperback version for future reference. ...more
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
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
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. ...more
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!
Camille Maio
Dec 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
As a classic and devoted pantser, I wrote my first five books with this method. However, my current work in progress clearly needs a structure so that the copious research ahead has a place to go. So reluctantly, I admitted that I had to plot it. I turned to TAKE OFF YOUR PANTS and it is amazing!! I feel like I have real direction and that my WIP will be better served by thinking through the details so thoroughly. I am going to reference this book with all my future writing.
I really like to read so I'm interested in how my favorite authors put their stories together. This was an interesting read where the bare bones of the novel is revealed. The author claims that a full outline can be written in as little as 4 hours. I think I'd like to play around doing something with this, not to actually write a novel but this would be the fun part part of writing a novel. ...more
Lashanah Tillar
Sep 27, 2019 rated it it was ok
Overall, this was a disappointing read. Hawker entices the earnest writer by promising a new outlining method that doesn't feel like outlining. She spends more than half of the book hyping this up, only to reveal that her supposedly refreshing method is just a copy/paste of Joseph Campbell's Hero's Journey with new names and additional plot points. Every writer is different, so I don't doubt that Hawker doesn't find her methods limiting, but there were so many moments when I tried to fit my stor ...more
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
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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

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  If you listen to NPR regularly, you’ve likely heard the voice of Shankar Vedantam, the longtime science correspondent and host of the radio...
15 likes · 2 comments
“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
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