So Why Do an Outline, Anyways?

You put a big old sign up, telling people not to do something, and what happens? They do it anyways.

That’s human nature in a nut shell, I suppose.

Anyways, in response to yesterday’s post, Brother Eric said the following:

And, of course, I have a reply…

Like I said – skip the outlines and start writing. Listen to your characters, dude. Give it a try that way. Just write, dammit!

Now I’m not about to tell you this is bad advice.  All we have to say is that Stephen King hardly ever outlines, and that should be all she wrote on the subject.  I don’t think Tolkien outlined.  Nor did Raymond Chandler.  I’d bet, were we to look into it, we’d find a whole slew of others who didn’t either.

But you know, sometimes funny things happen when you don’t outline.  You sometimes lose track of things.  Take Chandler, for instance.  From the Wikipedia entry on The Big Sleep:

One of the murders is left unexplained. Owen Taylor is found murdered in a car that has been pushed into the bay. Chandler was shocked to find later that he didn’t know who the killer was.

In Stephen King’s case, a town became a person during the course of his The Dark Tower.  (Funny note here: at one point he had an outline for the series.)

As a rule, I haven’t been outlining myself.  Which is why I have a hard drive cluttered with false starts.  And a file cabinet full of the things.

Don’t get me wrong.  My closest-to-finished works have all been without outlines.  But that’s NaNoWriMo stuff.  Without the deadline, I flounder.  And even with the deadline I flounder.

With this outline, I hope to at least make a trail through the wilderness.  I’ve already fleshed out a bit of the religion for the setting, created one character from the air, and, with luck, have something to stand on when I do write this thing.

On this, I’ve already tried the nonoutline approach with this baby. Got three chapters out of it and it stalled but good.

When you’re drowning, you go after anything that’ll get you out of the water.  That’s what I’m doing here.


3 Replies to “So Why Do an Outline, Anyways?”

  1. Didn’t mean to offend. I’ve heard you talking about outlines for years; I just assumed that the outlines were what was getting you stuck.

    Of course if the no outline method doesn’t work you should outline. Sorry about that!

  2. Outlines are always the best way to go, unless you’re one of those writers who just can’t stop dreaming things up. Otherwise, the NaNoWriMo approach rarely works out. Even then, the stuff from NaNoWriMo only serves to create an outline (of a sort), anyway.

    I’m currently writing at a 40 hr. per week pace (on oDesk) and I definitely need to know what I’m going to write about, prior to beginning. I think that after a few “cookie-cutter” novels, though, it becomes easier to get into the skin of your characters and let them lead YOU. I don’t know – everyone is different – just rambling, I suppose…

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