Thursday, November 19, 2009

To outline or not to outline...

At my writing conference, author Royce Buckingham mentioned how, when writers edit, it hurts so very much because they have to cut so much of their own beautiful writing. It feels like they're killing their children. So, he asked the question, "How do you avoid killing your children?" The answer: Don't have unwanted children!

In other words, if you have an outline, your writing won't wander all over the place. You won't have to cut much because you can stick to your plan. He also compared using an outline for writing a novel to using a plan to build a house. When he built his house, he didn't have to cut out huge rooms he'd already built. There were a few surprises along the way, and some small changes, but no expensive room-wrecking catastrophes.

I wrote (most of) my first two novels with no plan. It was fun to take a big journey without knowing where I'd end up. And what artist wants to limit their work by boring old boundaries? I've been pleasantly surprised by where it's taken me. I know where the Rocky book is headed, even though I haven't finished writing it yet, and I love how different parts are all coming together. How very Margaret Atwood of me.

But there are disadvantages, too. There have been moments where I didn't know what was coming next. I'd sit at the computer and nothing would come to me until I left the computer and sat down with a notebook to brainstorm ideas. Staring at a computer screen and feeling uninspired can be very discouraging.

So for the third novel, I'm going to try to outline and research first. I don't know whether or not it will work. But here's my guess. I think writing will go faster. I think it will save me time on revisions because there will be fewer plot inconsistencies. I think there will still be surprises. I'm worried that the manuscript will lose some spontaneity, and that my creativity (especially for non-plot aspects) will be hampered. We'll see. I won't get to it for awhile, but I'm excited to find out how outlining affects the writing process.


Janna Qualman said...

"Don't have unwanted children!"

So funny! And so true.

Thanks for visiting Something She Wrote today. :) Best with your writing!

Megan @ Megity's Handmade said...

Gracious girl! You really are good at this.
No flute choir for me this year because I had conflicts the first three rehearsals. So sad for me because I really would love to be playing right now. It's such a stress relief for me. Hope to see you in concert. When is it again? I know one is on Nov 28th, but what time?