My Verdict On Using Outlines

Posted by on Apr 4, 2011 in Uncategorized | 6 comments

If you’ve followed my blog, you already know that for, Book 1: Exiled, I didn’t use an outline. I sat down, wrote, and let the story guide me. I loved this process because it was exciting. I got to experience everything for the first time, just as my characters did. I think this was helpful because it allowed me to react appropriately. With Book 2: Shift however, I’ve done an outline. I wanted to compare the two and see which process I preferred and my verdict is: I’m still undecided.

You might think that since I’m 25,000 words into the book I’d have a clearer decision, but I don’t and there are reasons for this:

No Outline

Pros

Without an outline as I said above, you get to experience everything with the characters. Your emotions are truer, and as such, I feel the characters emotions come across more naturally. Also, writing the book has a different typeof excitement to it. You never know what might be around the corner until you unlock your muse and start writing. That in itself is a rewarding experience.

Cons

When writing without an outline, the story can end up longer than it needs to be. We all know how painful the editing process is, or can be. Without an outline the editing process isn’t just fixing grammar, spelling, style and language use. You also have to watch for plot holes. Find one and you could be re-writing a large part of your book. You have o find answers and motivations for characters and their actions after you’ve already written the book which can lead to…you guessed it, more major rewrites.

With An Outline

Pros

Writing the outline is exciting for the same reasons as writing the story without an outline is exciting. You get to figure out step by step whats happening. Then when you’re done you get to look at the great story you’re about to write and be excited to write it. With an outline you know everything that’s going to happen and can fix plot holes ahead of time and save yourself massive reworking later. Also, you can focus on your characters on a more intense level. Find their motivations for decisions beforehand and get a clearer understand who your characters are, and where they’re coming from. With this route also, you can gauge how far along you are into your book as you write it.

Cons

The downside of using an outline are partly the pros of writing without one. You don’t get to experience everything firsthand with your characters. You really have to play with your characters and put extra thought into why certain things are happening. Also, I’ve found thus far that writing the slower scenes can be tough to get through. You know there is something way more exciting around the corner and making the scene real without seeming rushed to get to the next can sometimes be difficult. All books have the slower scenes, they’re a necessary part of the book and often times, great places to put in small characters quirks and get important information across to the reader, you do not want to force or rush through theses scenes. But the biggest downside of writing with an outline – and please keep in mind this is strictly my opinion with my WIP so far – is letting the outline restrict you. The biggest problem I’ve had with this so far with Shift, is getting stuck in a scene that isn’t working. I get frustrated it’s not going well, it’s not flowing or characters are defying me. But once I remembered this is my story, I can write it however I want, things got easier. I was getting trapped by my outline because this is the way it has to be because that’s how I wrote it in the outline. I needed to push through and not be afraid to break free of your outline. If you remember your outline is simply a guide, it’ll be all the easier.

All in all, I am enjoying the process of writing this book with an outline, although it’s a different type of enjoyment. I’m still hoping in the long run it will helps speed up the process of writing the book by eliminating the amount of re-writes and editing that comes after the first draft. But in the end, only time will tell which I prefer.

What about you? What format do you prefer and why?