Thursday, September 16, 2010


I have never been a proponent of outlining. I've always written things on the fly, and figured I'd work out any problems as they popped up in the manuscript. I didn't care that I didn't have a plan. I was a reckless writer, and that worked for me. I found that the more I planned for a story, the less excited I was when I eventually sat down to write it. So, instead, I would get just a glimmer of an idea, plop down at my computer, and type up as much as I could.

And that method worked.

For a while.

These days, I'm slowly starting to rethink the way I write. Maybe it was writing a thesis that instigated the change, or talking to other writers who always outlined first. Maybe I just realized that my old way of doing things was no longer working for me. Whatever the reason, something changed.

Though I'd tried to outline stories before (we're talking back in middle school and high school), I'd never get further than chapter three. I'd come up with a sufficient beginning; I'd let the rest of the chips fall where they may. So, during college, I gave up trying to outline altogether. I said "fuck it," and just wrote whatever came to mind. And that produced a few manuscripts, though I don't think I'd ever hand them over to an agent. They're drawer manuscripts, as my thesis advisor called them; they were practice runs, not a book I'd want to see on a shelf (Okay, maybe DON'T MAKE A SCENE. But only if I edited the crap out of it.). And I was okay with that.

Then last semester happened. Thesis semester. And while I'd written a good chunk of THE AGE OF NEVER GROWING OLD during NaNoWriMo, I had a third to write, and then a whole lot of revisions ahead of me. So I tried something new: I outlined the story after I'd finished it. Which may sound weird, but hear me out. Outlining after the fact turned out to be really helpful. I was able to see where I'd placed all of the rising actions, where things fell flat, where I could use some more character development, etc. And everything was already written, so I had material to work with when I began editing. So for that project, outlining after I'd finished turned out to be a great idea. And it was the first time I'd successfully outlined anything from beginning to end.

Since finishing my thesis, I haven't been able to stick to any one project. I have writing OCD (I swear this should be a legitimate, diagnosable, disease). I tried to outline a few of my projects before I began writing, but that failed. I then tried to outline as I wrote, and that failed, too. No surprises there. I was getting frustrated. I had one book book being queried, four finished books twiddling their thumbs on my hard drive, and a million ideas floating through my head. I wrote nearly 25k on one project, but as of today, haven't worked on it in nearly two months.

So what's a girl to do?

Last night I needed a break from an endless pile of homework, and decided to look over something I'd written last weekend - the first chapter of a book entitled SILENCE. I'd meant for it to be a WWII young adult romance, but after thinking it over, decided it could work just as well as a futuristic dystopian. So I turned to Microsoft Word, opened a new document, and began typing. And you know what I typed up? Half of an outline. The entire first half of the book is in outline form right now, and the best part is that I like it. It makes sense. And I have a general sense of what I want to happen in part two, so you know what? I'm going to outline that as well. Probably this weekend.

And you know what I'm going to do after I finish outlining? I'm going to write. Because it's the only way to keep my mind off the queries I have floating around in cyberspace. If TANGO doesn't get picked up by an agent, I'd like to have something else to send out, especially considering the fact I had a few agents ask to see other work. So! Time to get to it!

How do you guys outline?

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