The torment and anguish: Outlining Abomination

Look, I don’t like outlining. I just don’t. This does not make sense, considering my soul’s desperate desire for order. You’d think that order = not chaos, and chaos = not outlining, therefore order = outlining. Somewhere in that logic sequence is a flawed statement, but I don’t know where. In the meantime, I read stuff on other blogs that sounds vaguely like this:

Hey there, everyone. I used to type only 150 words a day, and my novel was taking FOREVER. But then I learned how to outline and now, with only five minutes of outlining a day, I now type 9000 words a day, and have finished five books last month. You can learn to outline, too, with my free 7 FABULOUS TIPS TO NO-BRAINER AWESOME BEST-SELLER OUTLINING brochure, which I will send to you if you give me your email address.

Also, I rescued 10 kittens this morning and bought groceries for the poor family down the street.

For one, nobody likes you, if you’re this person. We’re all supremely envious (not jealous) of your 9000 words a day. Secondly, we don’t believe you, unless you start pumping out titles three times a month and they’re good. Thirdly, nobody likes outlining, do they? Do they?! Fourthly, nobody rescues 10 kittens. Maybe 1 or 2 kittens, but never 10. Those things are too wild to catch. So that’s another thing we don’t believe. And the groceries thing? Fah. Maybe you did. But anyone can buy food for others in need, so that’s not a big deal.  We’re all still envious of the whole 9k a day.

Back to this grindstone of this one particular task. Obviously, I can write, as you can see from this awesome example you’re looking at with your peepers right now. How awesome is this prose? That awesome. And there’s no tyops, like you might get on an Amazon book which hasn’t been complained about yet. (Note to you jealous authors: See a book written by a competitor that has a typo or badly formatted table or picture? You can help the Amazon Book Gestapo by reporting them. “Vee haff ways of making you punctuate,” they say. Chris McMullin asks some questions and clarifies the issue. It’s interesting, in the least.) Maybe MJ is frowning at the informalness of it all, but she’s an editor and they’re supposed to frown. Though the latest post with the blonde in the boots did not get my attention for prurient reasons or anything. I read it for the post!

Not so obviously, I don’t seem to be able to outline to save my life, or my book. Perhaps it’s because I’m not original in my thinking. “That’s okay, Matt, I took my last plot and ripped it from Homer,” you say. That’s cool, except my current plot does not look remotely like Homer. I say plot, what I really mean is half-plot, since the back half of it isn’t written yet. It’s not outlined. Because I didn’t rip it from Homer.

That’s because I like to claim I’m organic and all that. As if that’s something to be proud of. “Stephen King doesn’t outline,” you drone at me. So what? Everyone else is outlining. Not only that, but they like it. And then they tell me on their blogs how much they like it.

I think I just need to get the 7 steps brochure, suck it up, and do the outlining. Developmental editing seems so much easier when it’s not for you.

PS: Yes, I’m avoiding outlining by writing about avoiding outlining. Clever, aren’t I?



7 thoughts on “The torment and anguish: Outlining Abomination

  1. Awesome. And now I know why you asked me if I outline. Well… I don’t. In fact I couldn’t to save my life. And it IS a matter of order not equaling outlining. Why? Because I don’t write the story. My characters do. And there is NOTHING, and I mean NOTHING worse than wanting my story to go one way and then have my character stand up and shake his fist at me and says, “It’s not true!!” Therefore, it’s so much less war-like to just go with the flow.
    Let the rest have their fancy outlines I say! You ‘n’ me can get rich like Stephen King and then laugh at the lot of them. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Sometimes my characters are confused. This is when I want an outline. Sometimes my stupid characters are aimless and not useful and just want to chill and talk about old “Friends” episodes, and that’s not useful. I’m like, “Guys guys guys, let’s get on with the plot!” And they’re like, “Plot? There’s a plot?”


  3. I didn’t outline my first book and I ended up editing it for 2 WHOLE YEARS. My characters were having a grand old time doing whatever they wanted. I wrote 190.000 words, and had to cut the darn thing by 60,000 words – 1/3 of the book down the drain. Never again. I became an outliner.

    My Excel outline is very sketchy at first – a rough story. As I start writing, the outline grows and a few details pop in there. The characters know their plot goal, but they have a lot to say about how we get there. We proceed and the outline expands as subplots surface. I have to tweak it as the characters make changes. Occasionally, if they’re rebelling, I have to create incentives to get them back on track.

    I guess the point is that it’s an outline, but with tons of flexibility. The best of both worlds 🙂


    • 60 K!?! :O Eek.

      I like this, a lot. It leaves room for stuff to happen, and doesn’t sound as constraining as all those other outlining propositions I’m readin’. How many times have you used the loose outlining method in its current iteration? Have you tried it in more vigorous form? This sounds very hopeful.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, 60K. It felt like I was being flayed. I’ve used my loose outlining method on all books but the first, and I probably won’t change. For me, it works great. If anything pops into my head, I go in and add it and adjust the outline forward (and/or backward) to accommodate the change. It’s an easy way to build as I go. I’ve never used a more vigorous form – I don’t do well when forced into a box and I like the flexibility of my current process. Let me know if you try it and it works for you! 🙂


        • This may be my fallback position. Loose outlining. I’m going to try some of the more corseted versions, first, and if it annoys me or ends up causing lots of balled-up scraps of paper, I’ll retreat to excel and the soothing sounds of tap-tap-tap basic outlining. Today, I’ll make the logline.

          Liked by 1 person

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