Thursday, August 19, 2010

To outline or not to outline . . .

To outline or not to outline is a definite question.

It was the consensus of today's writers' group meeting, when the subject of outlining came up, that outlining stories is . . . a complete waste of time. For us, that is. I must stress that too. For us.

I know, I know, there are those of you out there who just can't seem to start a story without detailing every minute piece of it before starting your "Once upon a time . . . " If that's you and outlining works for you, by all means do it.

Every author does some sort of planning, in varying degrees, before they start their story. I'm reminded of a Chevy Chase movie called Funny Farm where Chevy plays a sports columnist-turned-author. For some reason, a publisher gave him an advance towards writing a novel (and he hadn't even started it yet - sorry, this would never happen in the real world, for a first-time novelist). Anyway, after Chevy sets up his writing room in their new house, which is in the middle of the New England countryside, he types the title page on his typewriter (yes, a typewriter - not a computer or a laptop or some other electronic do-hickey), then inserts another page and types out CHAPTER ONE. Proud with himself at this point, he inserts the third page, types a "1" at the top, and starts writing . . . "The" he writes and then he draws a blank. Okay, this may seem a bit extreme and one should have a plan, but it doesn't mean you need a mega-detailed outline of each and every chapter, etc.

Bottom line: I do not outline, save for some vague notes on characters and other plot points that I don't want to forget (because I most certainly will, if given the chance). In fact, as of this writing, I have five completed novels and well over a dozen other novels I've started, and none have been outlined. In fact, how I write is a lot like excavating an archealogical dig: who knows what I might uncover, which is half the fun of writing - I never know what comes up the next time I sit down to write.

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