To Outline or To Not Outline That is the Question

  I don’t know which side I’m on when it comes to novel outlining. I’ve heard and read compelling arguments for both sides as well as read interviews with authors who go into a novel with an idea, figuring out the pieces as they move forward, or create detailed outlines that help to guide their stories. There are many different ways to outline as well – index cards, brainstorm diagrams, traditional A-B-C outlines, or even a linear chart of events.

In the past I’ve started my novels with general character descriptions and an idea of what I want the story to be about, but no specific sequence of events. It worked well for my second novel, not so much the first. Now that I’m working on my third novel I’m torn between having a plan and just running with an idea. When I first started writing I didn’t have an outline and about 10,000 words later I realized that a lot of action I want to show is part of the back story. That’s no fun! In order to pull my readers into the action and suspense of what’s happening in the novel I need to rewind and start telling the story at a different time. Could this have been avoided by writing an outline beforehand? Maybe. It’s really hard to tell what ideas could have been planned and what comes about just as a natural part of the writing process. If there’s one thing that writers are in agreement on it’s that it’s very rare to get your story right the first time around. Rewrites are just as integral as the first draft, if not more so!

I’ve come to the conclusion that while I want to have a better idea of the main sequence of events that I want to happen in my novel, I also need to trust the writing process. After all the practice of writing helps to make one a better writer so if I’m hung up on following an outline, or deliberating whether to write on or not, and I’m not actually doing any writing that’s counter-productive too.

Outline or not, have a great week of writing! 🙂

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