Recently (last night) I tried my hand at outlining the novel I’m presently working on and was pleasantly surprised to find that it was helpful…go figure! I know most of you are probably thinking “Duh Moonstone, that’s pretty obvious stuff, even a newbie writer knows to outline…” (or something to that effect), while others are rolling their eyes thinking that outlining is so overrated and detracts from the creativity of the moment (which is what I always thought) but really, it was very nice to sit there and draw out the progression of the story inside my head. I’ve always been a massive note-taker, I have folder upon folder of notes for each and every novel/short-story I have plans for. I write quick fact sheets (like so and so has blue eyes, not green and the name of the town is such and such), myriad of oddball reminders to myself (do pecans grow in England…must check into this) and small scenes so that I remember the little details that I might forget overtime, as well as the large overview of the novel. But I never sat down and said scene for scene, this is how the novel will play out; it just seemed unnecessary and I felt it would keep me from discovering the surprises along the way that I never planned on having. There were scenes and major characters in my first novel that I never knew about until the half-way point or beyond and I never would have known to plan them in when I wrote an outline! And I admit, I still have that fear that I might miss something by staying on track, but I will let you know how things are progressing on that end later. I guess this is my trial and error novel…gulp.
And what made me come to the conclusion that an outline might be useful you ask? Hmm, well it’s probably because I’ve never had a novel so large that I was worried about potential word-count. I’m a very wordy writer by nature, but the amount of material in this story is worrisome even to me! I just figured that maybe an outline would keep me on track and that seeing what my next scene should be might keep me from dilly-dallying and adding stuff in that might not need to be there. Another thing I discovered to help with this is chapter breaks (and now some of you are probably muttering to yourself but keep in mind, everyone has their own writing style). When I write, I normally just put the whole story down, add spaces for breaks, and just go back in later and mark where my chapters should be. But now I think writing each part as a chapter might help keep the story moving in the direction I want it to. Freeform writing worked for me in the past and it was a great experience, but now it’s time to see how a little structure helps or hurts the process and outcome. I’m hoping for the best here!