Sunday, May 23, 2010

To Outline or Not To Outline

Yesterday I was going through my computer deleting some of the files I don’t use anymore, and one of the files I came across was the chapter outline I had made when I first started writing The Tiger back in November. It wasn’t an incredibly in-depth outline with each chapter meticulously outlined because the way I outline that would have probably taken me almost as long as it took to actually write the book. No, this was just a simple list of chapters with a short two to three sentence summary of each chapter written out to the side. I probably should have gone ahead and deleted it, but instead I decided to take a look at what I had written down.

Boy, was it different than the finished product. Not only had I scrapped several of the events that I had written up in the outline, but I had also expanded other points and added in several additional chapters.

Looking back at my outline made me wonder if outlining was really worth all the trouble. I had all of the ideas floating around in my head already, so was it really necessary to take a day to write them all out especially when I ended up deviating anyway? I know there are people who wouldn’t start writing a book without outlining first, but is it something that I really need to do?

After thinking it over I think that in my case the answer is yes. Even though I didn’t follow the outline exactly I still stuck to all of the main points mentioned in the outline, and it helped me keep track of where I was in the story. I think that it also helped me to find some common ground with my characters. For the first few chapters while the characters where still developing I followed the outline to the letter, but once the characters had started to come into their own I started to give them more control or the story, which I think was important. If I had stuck to the outline completely it wouldn’t have been the same. It would have been my story not theirs, but if I hadn’t had an outline at all then their story wouldn’t have gone anywhere it would have just run around in circles until eventually I got frustrated and gave up.

All things considered I think I’ll probably stick with outlining, at least for the time being.



Kate said...

i'm really bad at outlining before i start writing. but i've found it's helpful to outline as i go. i write a sentence or two about what is in each chapter as i go. then it's easier to track where the story is going and see what needs to be moved around when i get ready to start revising.

Anonymous said...

I outline before I write. I also take my time doing it. It's never hasty. So while I'm finishing up a wip, I'm outlining for the next one. It can takes weeks or months to outline.