Friday, October 1, 2010

To Outline or Not to Outline? That is the Question.

I have finally come to the conclusion that I'm not going to try and force something that is not me. I'm just going to be me and isn't that the way it should always be? You see, I had this idea that for my next novel I would do all this research and figure out how to do a successful outline because God knows in school (way, way back in the day), I was NEVER any good at them. I don't know why I couldn't seem to do them. Perhaps I was trying to force my brain to organize information in a way that wasn't natural for me. Maybe it's because I'm left handed and therefore right brain dominated? No. That's not it because truth be told I'm ambidextrous (well, to an extent, I eat, write and throw with my left hand but do EVERYTHING else with my right. Strange, I know. Guess that's what happens when you're young and the foster family taking care of you tries to force you to be right handed when you're naturally left handed. Sigh).

Anyway, so about outlining. Yeah, not for me. It has never worked before and rather than spend weeks or months trying to prefect the art of outlining, I will stick to my method which is a combination of winging it mixed with bulleting type notes that help me remember the things I want to happen. I often do some chapter bulleting, but I don't do it for all chapters. I do it when I need to organize my thoughts or don't want to forget an idea I had. For the most part, I wing it. It comes to me as I write and I like that because sometimes I don't know what's going to happen until I get there and to be honest, that's why writing to me is so much fun. It's surprise after surprise after surprise. Even when I take notes on what I think I want to happen, it often changes because as I'm in the moment in a scene, something else comes to me and the scene happens differently than I originally envisioned. I guess in the acting world, it would be like someone who only follows a script vs. someone who does a lot of improvisation (Jim Carrey and Steve Carell are notorious for this).

For those who outline, kuddos to you. Seriously. I think good outlining is an art in itself and if you have perfected it and it works for you that's awesome. It's just not for me and I don't think that makes me less of a writer than someone who does. I'm just me. And I kinda like me the way I am. :-) If my method aint broke, why try to fix it?

What about you? Outline, wing it, or do you do your own thang? Just curious (in case I change my mind one day then I'll know who to go to for lessons haha).


  1. Congrats on finding what works best for you. :)

    I also find outlines constricting, and I usual begin writing with a vague story already in my mind. Lately I've had to sit down and outline when I get a writer's block, or when things are getting too out of hand (aka, I'm just writing all over the place with no real intent.)

    So outlines shouldn't be a set thing, but they are definetly tools that sometimes have to be used.

  2. Gee Mel, why don't you ask a tough question? I guess I kind of do both. I wing it at first and see where the idea takes me, then about halfway through I do an outline of the rest so that I know where the story is going and where it's going to end up. But sometimes things just happen and the story goes in a totally different direction than I first envisioned. I wrote an outline for NW2 a year ago, but now I see it happening totally different and when I actually get down to writing, it'll probably come out different. Does it mean that I can't stick to an outline? Maybe, or maybe i just think of better plotlines, scenes and situations as I go. But that's the fun of it - you know??

  3. I FINALLY tried outlining with my current WIP. Of course, this was after I wrote a very very rough first draft and realized I had to sit down and sort out a gazillion plot wholes or I'd be rewriting forever and ever. So I made myself a very loose outline before beginning the new draft. It's only about 5 handwritten pages long...but hopefully it'll help me get where I need to go :)

  4. looks like in a nice mixed review. guess everyone just does what works for them. thanks for sharing all :-)


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