O is for... Outlining

So.. today is all about the funnest part of writing, the work you do before you write.

You know, the thinking, and daydreaming, and wondering, and talking to yourself, and researching, and dreaming, and obsessing and....

OK, it's really not that bad. Some people skip outlining altogether and just write on the fly, 'discovery writing' they call it. To me that's makes about as much sense as 'discovery shopping', where you go grocery shopping by just driving around blind and hoping you eventually bump into a store along your path. That seems like it would take a long, long time. Sure you probably see some areas that you wouldn't see otherwise.. but at what expense? 

I know that Stephen King in his uber-phenomenal book, "On Writing" says that's how he does it.. but he must have like a built in GPS for his stories or something because I've tried doing that and I always seem to end up writing about lack of sleep or stinky diapers or college football, or something like that.

I think my problem is my real life simply has too much gravitational pull for me to get too far away from it unless I am moving intentionally away.. thus I need my road map, my outline.

I've actually been working on an outline today. I've been swatting 2 different stories around in my head for a couple of years.. and when I start working on one I seem to bleed over into the other. Eventually I came to the conclusion that it simply is because they're too close to each other in terms of where I'm planning on going with them..so I've spent some long hours meshing the 2 stories together and come out with what I think is a pretty darn good central idea for a series.

I've spent today doing a general outline of the overall story arc, and am starting to get specific on the first book in the story. I already know most of the story, so outlining it has been pretty quick.

Now.. I've just got to do some skeleton outlines of the other stories in the sequence and I'll be good to go.  

This is why outlining works for me.. I don't need a huge outline that's 10 pages long.. most of the major scenes have already played themselves out in my head anyway.. but having a compass that points me to where I want to go is a useful tool, at least at this point in my writing career.


  1. *laughs*

    I'm one of "those" grocery shoppers ;) I love to write by the seat of my pants... to just let the story evolve/flow on its own and then tweak and rearrange later to solidify. I've tried outlining, but the magic doesn't come to me that way. The magic comes with words for me.

    I'm still *trying* to become an outliner though, because I think it saves time and is all around more wise, but... it's tough to change how one works! ;)

  2. Outlining is something I've done for a long time, but I've found that the more outlining I do in a story the more focused the story will become, with more scenes and developments that offer the reader more of what they may actually be looking for rather than whatever I might be interested in writing (because the two are not always the same thing).

    Anyway, it makes writing easier, the more you know ahead of time. And it makes it more fun, especially when you know many pages in advance that thing you're going to get to write, your favorite moments, whether they're at the end of the story (which tends to happen for me) or not.

  3. I'll spend weeks doing an outline and then when I start writing, inevitably, I throw the whole thing out because it goes in a totally different direction. I think it is because as I write, I learn more and more about my characters and they don't always act the way I thought they would.

  4. I'm like Morgan. I've tried outlining but get frustrated and feel as if I'm wasting time, which is odd because outlining is supposed to save time. I have a rough idea where I want to go in my head and that's good enough for me. Then, at the end of the day, when the kids are finally in bed, I can start typing and I see where the story leads. It’s like going on a backpacking trip vs an organized vacation. Both can be fun and enriching.

  5. I like that, skeleton outlining. That describes me perfectly.


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