Sunday, July 6, 2008


Lots of periodic discussion about outlines amongst the writers. It's always the classic debate - do you outline, and why? Some people don't. Some people do. The answer seems to be as random as the writers themselves.

Do I outline? Not really. But kind of. Lemme 'splain.

I don't do traditional outlines. There are no pieces of paper with bullet points, or horizontal timelines with little explanatory offshoots, or synopsis-like paragraphs explaining where the hell I'm going with my writing. Hell, I tried doing one page character summaries/biographies and besides the name and some general characteristics I didn't even stick to those. (I didn't even use a couple of the characters!) What do I do, then, that could be considered outlining?

Well, I usually know what I want to happen to certain characters. I might not know the when but I generally know the what, and the rest of it comes later. For example, on my current werewolf thing that I'm trying to revise, when I was writing the story I knew a couple of things. Number one, it was a Thursday night when the story started. Number two, the full moon was going to be the following Tuesday. I knew I wanted an attack to happen sometime right around the full moon, but I didn't have the exact time pegged, nor did I know yet who I wanted to be the attacker. I started with that general idea in mind and just let the characters flow onto the page.

As I wrote I got more ideas for the characters. Early on I started thinking a death needed to happen. Did I know who I wanted to die? No. Did I know when? No. So I kept writing. It came to me about halfway through the book, and so I generally wrote the story with that future event in mind, and it didn't happen until the last few chapters. I wrote a bad guy into the story, but I didn't yet know his identity. (He appears as a werewolf through most of the story so I had wiggle room to decide what person he was as a human.) As I continued I got other ideas, like how my character's ex-boyfriend could contribute more to the story, how I could squeeze certain events into the narration, how I could give all of my characters just a little more depth...

And you know, the story turned out okay. It turned out more than okay. It certainly turned out way better than I thought it was going to. And I did it without a traditional outline.

I won't lie, I sometimes had to go back and tweak things as I got new ideas. But you know, I figure that would have happened anyway even with the outline. If I wrote an outline to the point of knowing each step the characters would take as I wrote, I wouldn't follow it. Why then would I want to take so much effort making an outline I already knew I probably wouldn't follow?

So I stick to my "kind of" statement. I plan with a general idea, and write towards that goal, but I don't organize myself into a rut.

Someone mentioned the left vs right brain thing. I don't know that it relates to the writing. Hell, I don't even remember which side of the brain is which. I do know that I'm right hand and right eye dominant, and when I feel the need I'm extremely OCD about being organized (the shirts in my closet are organized by type, tshirt to long sleeve to sweatshirt, etc, and used to be arranged in rainbow order), but at the same time I don't like to over-organize my writing and my house is in a constant state of disaster. Whatever that is, it's contradictory. LoL.

Quote of the day:

(The Whole Nine Yards)
Jimmy: I'm telling you this like a friend because if you screw this up - I would hate to... I would really hate to have to kill you. I would hate it more than mayonnaise. You know how much I hate mayonnaise.


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