Outlining May Not Be The Devil?

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!

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12 thoughts on “Outlining May Not Be The Devil?

  1. Generally my co-author and I just write and let things happen, but lately we’ve been wanting to compile all the scenes we’ve written into actual book form so we can get closer to being published. We decided to hash out a rough outline just so we’d know which part goes where, and it led into rewriting the majority of what we have written already for better flow. I love it though, because it makes more sense than it had before. A lot of the writing we do has a sort of soap-opera flow to it, not the cheesy aspect, just the fact that it goes and goes and goes and there’s no seeming beginning or end to it. Outlines can be lifesavers if you get stuck in that habit. *nods*

    • I don’t think I have it in me to co-author anything, I want full control of the writing process (or what my character’s let me believe is control) lol. And I’m glad the rewriting is going well for you guys, when I write it’s from the beginning to end, not one scene here and there, I can’t imagine how hard that would be!

      • Sometimes we’ll lose inspiration on a certain line of story, so we’ll pick up somewhere else and keep writing, then go back later on and pick back up or do rewrites to get it flowing again. It’s fun. A lot of fun. 🙂

      • Everyone has a different style 🙂 With us, a lot of it is because we’re in each others mind all the time. We’ll both say the same thing at the same time in IM (she’s in another hemisphere from me), and are nearly always on the same page. Plus I have difficulty finishing projects on my own. With her there, it keeps my inspiration going. Hence the slow progress on Sherwood.

  2. Outlining = Organization. I admire the organized. Outlining works… when it works. I never end a novel the way I intended. Sometimes the journey takes me a different direction. Like following a map and then deciding to take the exit that says “Lint Museum” just to see where it goes… Yeah, I’m weird.

    • I admire the organized as well, I don’t know how they do it, but good for them lol. And I don’t think it’s odd to end up somewhere you didn’t plan on with a story, I know the overall END of my stories, but the way we get there is never what I imagine or plan on.

  3. I don’t know if I’m cut out for outlining. But I don’t know if I’m cut out for writing a novel for that matter. I very much relate to wanting to be surprised by your own writing, I certainly enjoy not knowing what I’m going to say next. But then I’m pretty scatter-brained. What am I even saying now?

  4. I’ve always been a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants writer but over the last year I’ve come to understand the importance of plot-planning, world-building and even outlining. I’m not very experienced in doing it though.

    ~Jamie

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