My outline is wrong. All wrong. Throw it out, start over.

I’ll bet you never thought that.  Heck, most of you don’t outline. That’s English class stuff, no application to the real world.

It’s okay, I agree. About the English class stuff. Application? Plenty.

How can you write a complex plot unless you have some map?  “It ruins the spontaneity, Pontius,” you say to me plaintively.  “And,” you add snarkily, “you can’t even spell spontaneity without a spellcheck.”  Got me there. But you’re not so clever! I’ve obviously got a spell check.  Strawman Snarky reader: 0. Pontius: 1.  Just in case you missed that.

I think I get what people are sayin’.  See, there’s joy in discovering a story as you go. You write and write and a few thousand words in, the characters are changing the story in a natural direction that feels right. It’s like you’re along for the ride and the story writes itself.

Or so some of the good writers claim. “Got my little fiction ouija board here, and it practically writes itself. I got discipline and creativity coming out of my back pores. I can’t help but write awesomely. Some days, I’m in awe of how the story writes itself. Then it’s down to the bank to cash that day’s royalty checks for a couple grand.”  It’s okay. We can hate them together, and be one with our envy.

So outline it is.  It’s faster.  Better. And because most of us aren’t geniuses, we need a process to outlet our creativity.

I’ve been processing. I thought I had a good outline. Now, I’m not so sure. Scratch that. I’m sure. It’s not good. It’s meh. Indifferent! Poxy and foul! To the scrap heap, and not one more word from you. No, reader, you cannot save it.  I will rebuild. Bigger. Better. Etc.

Pity all the conflict is in me battling my outline.  I’d be better in a story.

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5 thoughts on “My outline is wrong. All wrong. Throw it out, start over.

  1. I can’t say I did a proper outline with my current work, but I can say it does speed things up. I think my problem is that I start outlining, and end up doing a significant amount of writing instead. My approach has been note cards. I write down the salient bits of plot on a note card, maybe have a file with a chapter summary, and use the note cards to shuffle things around. Plus, I can just throw out the crappy ones. Anyhow, just a thought.

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    • I do the same thing using a spreadsheet. I like excel and it doesn’t stifle my creativity. Notecards would make me crazy.

      It was easy enough to get to the page long stage for the three act novel, but when I started to model the scenes it got very ugly and that has forced me back to the planning stage on the overall purpose of the story line and all that entails.

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      • I tried a spreadsheet – I use a highly automated one for my languages – but I couldn’t seem to make it work for notes though. One of these days I might try a database, but again, too lazy just at the moment.

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  2. Sorry but I’m definitely a pantster. Tried an outline not so long ago and ended up torturing me. Although I do tend to outline in my head. I think for a long time about a story. I make notes, write sample scenes, do character profiles. For me, it’s more like coming up with a new recipe for spaghetti sauce, looking for new, interesting ingredients. But then when I’m ready to cook I don’t need the notes or lists or any of it because it’s just kind of there.
    In the long run I’m not sure it matters whether you outline or not – it matters if you get the story written.
    Right?

    🙂 Writer Chick

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  3. I think we may have similar styles… but I have yet to complete an entire plot. I was mulling that over a little today. What’s the dynamic going to be on the conflict (ongoing) and how do I get the characters there?

    I reckon that it’s going to be a result of better written characters. The more full flavored they are, the more obvious the directions the story can go.

    I’m not saying anywhere that planning vs. pantsuiting is better in either way. I believe if someone is having trouble with plot, maybe employ some planning tricks. If you’re not having problems with the plot, keep doing what you do because I feel like the writing world is quite pragmatic. It’s pragmatic because the marketplace of ideas is pragmatic. If the work is good, it will stand a chance at garnering readers. If it is not good, if it doesn’t meet all the criteria of whatever it is the reader is looking for, it will ultimately fail to garner attention or gain readers.

    Having it in black and white though has been useful to produce the synopsis I need to present to a publisher, which is an established author who will put his imprimatur on the work and include it as a shared universe thing. I’m treating that as making a pitch to a traditional publisher, so he gets a sample of the work, a synopsis of the plot, and some character details, all this is before the thing is written. No pressure. 😀

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