To outline or not to outline, that is the question. Whether tis nobler in the mind to forge ahead organically, or take up arms against unfertilized plots, and by opposing them, end them…
Ahhh, who am I kidding. I ain’t no Shock-es-Spear.
But here’re my slings and arrows: I don’t outline my fiction.
I’ve stared at blank computer screens for days.
Can’t do it.
Nonfiction, yes, but fiction–negative. Sure, one can do anything one puts one mind to, but I also just don’t want to. I’m sure there’re deep psychological issues there, most of which I’m quite aware of, and with one in particular I’m even going to talk about: discovery.
I like to be surprised! Love to discover the story along the way. I do not like to have everything intricately or even partially outlined. To me, for one thing, it’s too much like work. My day-job, work. But mostly, I firmly believe, because I want to be surprised in the journey of discovery of the story itself.
Now, of course “outliners” can do the same….
But I’m not wired like that. Not for fiction. Whether or not my slings and arrows are any good, I’ve written eleven novel-length manuscripts since 1987 (about 100K words each, of part time writing), not one of them outlined. It’s most vexing to me to outline and I never get anywhere doing it, and I’ve tried for coming up on thirty years. It just isn’t how I work. I’ve heard this is how publishers like to see newcomers’ work, and if forced into such a position I would obviously giver ‘er a go, but I’m pretty sure that they (the publishers) would be pretty disappointed, yeah. A lot of cool stuff comes out when I “free hand” my efforts, stuff that even amazes me. Stuff that makes me say things like “Maaan, where did that come from?!” and “Whoa, now that was cool!”
Many can even say that outlining makes a better book. I don’t believe it. I think either method can create a great or even good/passable book, and think there’s more to a great book than mere mechanics (apologies, stalwarts). One thing I do do, however, is reverse outline. When I have a completed draft, I then go through and highlight all the events, and work and rework the hell out of them to get the story right. I ain’t married to any of my words…only the story. What makes it better. I also write up a synopsis to help keep me on target. So, though I don’t do it all up front, I do partake in the outlining endeavor in a round-about way. To me, I love doing it this way. It’s just how I’m wired.
And, don’t get me wrong–I don’t think one is better nor easier than the other. Both require perseverance and discipline. Gutting it out. There is never just one right way in doing most things, because if there were, there wouldn’t be all these other ways.
So, find out what works for you, and do it. Don’t get all vapor locked in the details; don’t allow mere mechanics to kill your enthusiasm. If you find yourself stalled, blocked, or otherwise hindered, well then, siddown and just…