After reading several blog posts on the power of outlines and how important they are to good fiction, I decided to use one some months back on my current project.

I sat down and mapped out the story, using a traditional outline like I would have done with a term paper in college. All neat and organized with key points and characters laid out. I even did summaries for each of the characters so that I could come to grips with their personalities and motivations.

I’m starting to think I broke the outlining process. Or that I did it “wrong”. Wrong for me, anyway.

Maybe I am letting myself be too bound by its rigidity. Not letting the creativity and freedom flow and take me where they will.

  • I have these steps to take.
  • This path to walk
  • In this way

Maybe I am being too strict with outlining. Maybe it was only meant as a framework to get me thinking about the end before I get there. Maybe my analytical efficiency is driving me down a path I predetermined to see the “job” done. A path I am not sure is the best path, or even the road these characters need to travel. After all, how much creativity can you cram into a weekend? How much more do you learn about your characters as you spend hours writing them?

I am not saying writing is all unicorns and rainbows. Some mystic process where creative things just happen. For me, it’s 5% inspiration and 95% butt to chair. And problem solving. Now that X has happened, how do we get to Y in a way that doesn’t feel cheesy, forced or stupid. (I hate characters that do dumb things, especially when they should know better).

Or maybe what works for one writer, especially a full time, experienced author, is not what works for another.

I am not giving up on outlines, not yet, but I am thinking about putting this one in a drawer and seeing where the story goes on its own.

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2 thoughts on “Outlines

  1. I think the analytical question is What is the goal you are trying to accomplish with outlining? I know I keep trying to outline and use my outlines, but they work best when I mostly throw them out once they stop working. (I also keep the next 2-4 chapters as sort of general running notes when I do see where something is going in the document, it’s the only outline I stick to…and only because I constantly change it.) Toss the outline (or tuck it into an archive folder) and good luck!

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