Outlines: Love ‘Em or Hate ‘Em?

Outlines can be a writer’s best friend or worst enemy depending on which side of the page you’re on.

outlines
Silvia ViƱuales / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Sounds cliched, huh?

Not really. I mean, think about it. If a writer uses an outline, they can structure how they want things to go. I mean we have to juggle so much already. Exposition, backstory, dialogue, rising action, falling action, climax, and denouement–it’s enough to make a writer cry.

An outline can be good for a writer, but can be bad for the character. I mean, if most stories are from the inside of a character and they like to be free to be themselves, then an outline will cramp their style a little, won’t it?

So here’s my take on outlines today:
1. They are good for structure, and can keep you on track from start to finish with nothing left out.
2. Outlines are a good way to see when a potential corner is coming and may keep you from painting yourself into it.
3. An outline is not concrete. It can be changed to suit the story and the author’s whims.

Outlines can be a writer’s friend

So, this weekend I started out writing an outline for Loran Rudder and the Secret Key. I even went out and researched the parts of a story and tried to make myself consider the parts individually and how they are in my own particular book. I took out old-school paper and pen and sat outside in the sun and worked on trying to understand what it is that Loran really wants in this story. Internal and external. And it had to matter a lot. In fact, it had to matter more to her than anything else in the whole of her world.

When I got it, I was shocked. Well, the answer had been right there all along. But I had written EVERYTHING all around the elephant on the page but nothing about it’s trunk. So I am starting all over again. And this time, that big gray critter with big feet is getting addressed. I am using an outline and I am going to put it where I can see it each step of the way.

It’s a process, I keep telling myself. This is a process and outlining is just a good way to keep the process going. I hope it helps you too.

About master

Kim Smith is the author of Disk of Death, The Dread Room, Love Inn, and An Unexpected Performance.

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