Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Why I Love Outlining

I know not everyone is going to agree with me on this, but I abso-friggin-lutley love outlining my novel... but only at a certain time in the novel-writing process.

I didn't outline my novel before I wrote my first draft. Sure, I made a timeline of important events - since I need to get the chronology straight since I based a lot of things I wrote on actual events - but I do NOT outline as a first step, ever. Otherwise, I'd feel too constrained, and I'd feel that the story wouldn't naturally unfold.

That said, on draft 3.5, I got stuck. I knew what I wanted to add, I knew I needed to move some scenes around, and I knew I needed to delete a few scenes (as much as it hurt to do), but I didn't know where to start.

So, I started my outline to get the big picture of my whole novel on just a few pages. In the end, I organized this outline based on what I learned over at Paperback Writer.

But first, I started simple with the barest of the bare Chapter descriptions followed by a few hits of 'enter' to give myself some room to make handwritten notes. I then cut all the chapters into slips of paper and took two hours of sitting on the dining room floor to reorganize the pieces of the novel puzzle. It was so cathartic. I finally started to see how certain scenes worked together - or not - and made sure that the two timelines were both given the word and page space they needed.

I added, moved things around, and, gasp, threw out a couple chapters (the hardest to get rid of being the first two), and then I taped the slips of paper together.

Then it was back to the computer. I rearranged the outline and then filled out the outline with specific scenes, all the while making notes of what I needed to add or to work out when I went back to rewriting the novel. And boy oh boy do I have a ton of stuff I still need to rewrite.

But here's the thing. While I had some ideas of how I wanted the novel to change and grow before I sat down to outline, I never expected most of what I realized when I actually did the work. The novel is going to be so much better now and that much closer to being done, all because I took a break from writing (kind of) and outlined.

Do you outline? Or, how do you go about making drastic changes to your work? If you outline, when do you: before starting the novel or sometime after? How do you use outlines? Or do you absolutely hate them?

1 comment:

strugglingwriter said...

I don't outline, but I'm learning after three meh novels I've written that I need to outline, or at least do something similar to an outline.