Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Importance of Outlining

Outlining. For some writers it's a dirty word. For me, it's the reason I finished my first novel.

That may sound a bit extreme. There were many factors that contributed to my realizing that goal, but I cannot stress how important outlining was. Especially since I wrote the last half at the break-neck speed of NaNoWriMo. If any book has helped me with this process, it's William Bernhardt's Story Stucture: The Key to Successful Fiction
Insert shameless plug here.

Outlining my story helps me fill out the in-betweens. The segments that happen between major turning points. I knew where I wanted to go, but until I outlined, I had only the vaguest sense of how I was supposed to get there. And like any map, outlining is only a suggestion. A simple route from Point A to Point B, but that didn't stop me from wandering off the map when my characters led me.

In terms of process, it's a lot easier for me to sit down and write an entire scene. I pick up the next index card (yes, I'm old-fashioned) and I write that scene. I know where it's going and I know where the story is supposed to end up. Some people prefer to write from middle to middle that way they aren't starting with a blank page. As for me, I tried that, but I could never bring myself to stop in the middle of a scene. If I got started I had to go until it was finished.

I also believe outlining gives you a chance to look at the story structure as a whole. Outlining defines the trees, but it also gives you a pretty good idea of what that forest is going to look like when you're done planting. You can see things like, are you ramping up the intensity? Do your subplots find resolution?

Above all, the reason I'm talking about outlining today, as I prepare for yet another NaNoWriMo, is to remind myself. Yes, coming up 60-100 scenes is time consuming and exhausting. Yes, my OCD means I have to have the index cards fully filled out and in a semblance of order. Yes, I could be watching Netflix. But outlining is important.

So I'd better get busy.

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