Thursday, April 16, 2009

Do you Outline, take this Writer to be your Lawfully Wedded Storyteller?

Or why an outline is like an Open Marriage for me. I was just rambling about the way I work with my outline over at my blog. (Ooooh check out my awesome new linking abilities-it's sexy!) And I stumbled upon this metaphor, and so I thought we could open up an outline discussion here, since I have a feeling this works very differently for everybody because there's no wrong way to eat a Reese's.

So here's how I roll. I tend to outline in terms of chapters. I like to know every major plot point, character development and clue/mystery solved or revealed in each chapter and I like to know my cliff hanger endings as well.

And then I sit down and with my outline just a click away on my laptop I begin to work. And usually for a short period of time this is all that happens. I write, I check my outline and we are one and the same. But there always comes a moment when my characters say "Hey! Look over here!" or "I don't want to do that yet!" or "It'd be so cool if I could just say this!" and I then I think, "Yeah! That would be awesome!" and being the nice parent-writer that I am, I let them do it. And nine times out of ten, my characters are right and it works and...then even though we took the scenic route, we find our way back to the outline.

So I decided that me and my outline are in an open marriage. We trust each other, we are loyal to each other, and believe in each other, but I tend to wander away a little bit. I stray, I experiment, I essentially cheat on my outline. But...then at the end of the day, my outline is the one I come home too. As much as I stray, I always come back and we are the better for it, because my little extra interludes and strays always seem to fit into my outline already and make it better.

Thus you have my outline is an open marriage metaphor. Now, how do you all outline? And who here chooses not to outline at all?

1 comment:

  1. When it comes to outlines, I have a fear of commitment. I want to roam free, not be tied down and have to come to the same thing day after day after day.

    I usually end up making an outline for a very early draft of a story, generally because it has been requested by someone or because the first grade teacher in me says, "Let's tell this whole story before we write it, so we know it makes sense." I'll sit down and outline and realize somewhere around two-thirds of the way through that I don't really know what's going on, but I push through to the conclusion I know will eventually happen.

    This outline lasts for about a week. Then I trash it and stomp on it and say "I hate outlines!" But that's not entirely true.

    For me, outlining is important because it helps me understand what my ideas for a story are, see major holes, and generate concepts that either weren't in the story at all before, or flesh out very basic ideas. But I can't have it with me--it has to be soley in my head--for things to work.


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