Monday, August 19, 2013

What I Discovered About Outlining

I've been toying around with outlining recently, trying to find what works best for me. A couple of weeks ago, I finished the rough draft of a fantasy novel, which came in woefully short in the word count department by the time I reached THE END. But if I could count all the words I tossed out while trying to find the right beginning, it would have been the perfect word count.

Know what I discovered while outlining? It just doesn't work that well for me. There, I said it. I've tried it because it's supposed to be good for you (like broccoli), but in the end, I'm just not that crazy about outlining (or broccoli, but I drown in it cheese and eat it anyway). My first draft is my outline. It's an exceptionally long and detailed outline, but still an outline nonetheless.

While writing this particular novel, I finally put aside the outlines after about three failed attempts at the beginning, jotted down the major plot points, and then simply started writing. At last I could write past 15K or 30K words and keep going, carried by the initial excitement that had me wanting to write this particular novel in the first place.

I think outlines work. I think some people thrive on them. But for me, I discovered I need to jot down a few key ideas and plot points, research, maybe do some Q & A to discover what makes the character tick (if it's somebody new), and then go for it. Then let it rest. Give myself some space so I can look at it objectively. I did that by writing a new short story and critiquing. I critiqued three pieces for World Con and two for one of my local writers' groups. It's definitely gotten me in 'editor mode' and ready to look at the rough draft with fresh eyes.

I plan to start revisions some time this week. I already have ideas for expanding a couple of the subplots. I know I'll be writing new scenes and adding huge chunks to the novel now that I know where it was all going.


  1. I am exactly the same way. I've tried every method I can find, desperate to find a way to speed up my writing process or at the very least, to stop ending up with 30K piles of badly plotted drivel. I've tried detailed outlining and get stuck. I've tried the snowflake method and Save the Cat. I just... can't really do it. I might be able to jot down an idea here or there, but the first draft really is how I figure out what's going to happen.

    I wish I could outline, but I can't, and I think people like us just can't force our creativity to work that way. *solidarity fistbump*

    1. Hear hear! I'm so glad to know there are others who find it easier to write a 'discovery draft' than outline. In the end, I'm sure outliners and pantsers come up with the final, polished product in roughly the same amount of time.