[caption id="attachment_3437" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Taken last winter with 100 other potential author photos. The beard did not last the spring."][/caption]
To outline or not to outline; that is the question. At least that is one burning question this week at Wicked Writers, where we endeavor to discuss, convince or even lecture on the necessity of plotting one’s course when beginning that next bestseller. Some might suggest that it is in fact the most important writing one will ever do.
As I contemplated this week's prompt, I was unsure just which side of the fence I was standing behind. I have written by simply sitting down and blazing ahead, come Hell or high water. More recently, I have written with more of a plan. It wasn't until I had written this post's rough draft that I came to fully realize just which side of the fence I should be standing behind. Walk with me, won't you...
I might be a special case and I will leave that for you to decide just how special needs that might be. What I mean by this is, I have done quite a lot of writing where I have started madly typing away, allowing the visuals in my head to play out as if they were the scenes in a motion picture that had yet to be written down. A script in reverse, if you will. Regular readers of mine will recall that I have mentioned this before. In fact, my first novel was written just this way. It did take twenty years to write, so it would be extremely difficult for me to champion this method of writing. It took much editing and many rewrites to get it where it is now, and may be one of the reasons why it took so long. Perhaps if I would have mapped it out with an outline it might not have taken so long to complete. I have also written all of my short stories in this fashion, but the size and scope was so much easier to rein in, if and when things began to go astray.
For my second novel I did map it out. I don’t know whether it was the greatest outline in the world since I had never tried writing a novel with one before. I think it did help me to map out the action beforehand and to narrow my focus. That novel only took eight months to write from beginning to end of second draft. My third novel in the series currently only exists as an outline. Yet, even now, as I contemplate working on that project this winter, I can hear the outline speaking to me. I grow excited just thinking about it, most likely since I don't have to do the heavy lifting now. I am confident that once I blow the dust off of that thing, the images will begin to play and the writing will be quite easy. Whether it is good or not remains to be seen!
You will be visited by three ghosts... Okay, perhaps just one.
Come just a little further please...
I recall a painful writing experience that occurred in my youth. Today, not only does every home have a computer, but there is one in every other room. However, what you are about to see occurred back in the 1980's when there were only one or two computers on every block. You know, the dark ages! Anyway, my neighbors allowed me access to their pc for my writing. I spent many an afternoon there, but one particular evening I must have been late getting home and neglected to save my work. I recall leaving their home, feeling horrible as I walked back across the street. That night I spent hours jumping out of my bed as bits of action, dialogue, etc., came flooding back as I was attempting to go to sleep. Eventually, I got enough of it back, or at least enough to save the story. If I would have had an outline, it might have saved me from a lot of stress, unless of course I had neglected to save that, too.
As you have taken this journey with me, you must realize, as I have, just how important outlines can be. Mine are not great sketches of character or the latitude and longitude of every single subplot. They are only a few sentences that essentially script out where I need to be with each chapter. They still allow me the freedom to create, unshackled to strict rules, while helping me to focus on what should to be happening next. Perhaps more importantly than anything for me has been how helpful they have been with my pacing. Studying my outlines I have come to realize just what was needed and exactly when it was needed, much like a film director planning his shots by storyboard.
If one would have asked me how much stock I put into outlining prior to this week, I might have said that I was not a believer. However, as you and I have found as we walked the terrain of this subject, I believe that I can be firmly counted among the converted. How about you? Are you reluctant to sit down and outline for fear that it zaps the creative process? Is it far too mundane a task? Are some of you other Wicked Writers out there believers in simply sketching your writing, and thus leaving plenty of opportunity for creativity or spontaneity? Do some of you actually prefer the shackles? (Poor attempt to entice comments?)
The Wicked Writers Staff thank you for all of your comments this week and every week, and hope that you will keep them coming. We are reclining about Headquarters, snacking on Maple Bars and sipping coffee, eagerly awaiting more. Or is it just me?
Oh, and thanks for taking the walk with me...