I have touched on this subject before, but I wanted to speak a bit more about outlining. So many people are looking for a “rule book” for writing, a “how to” guide. There isn’t one, it’s as simple as that.
Writing techniques are as unique as writers. I have listened to, and corresponded with, many authors, some of them getting a good selling pace going, some best sellers. All have said the said thing, writing is unique to the writer.
Now I’m not saying that there are no commonalities, that would be a lie. But to say you can do exactly what Stephen king does and it will work for you is just wrong.
Some writers do not feel comfortable without a strict outline. They tend to go off on too many tangents and end up going nowhere. These strict outlines are highly descriptive, much like you would write if you did they opposite of “show don’t tell”.
“X walked into the bar.
X saw Y that had had been looking for.
X walked to Y and hit him.”
This type of outlining is almost writing the scene for you, it stops your mind from wandering, and keeps you to the story you want to tell.
Other authors never have an outline. They have an idea in their heads and just start writing.
“What if there was a planet of super intelligent beavers?”
That is all they need because they want the idea to flow naturally, without any limits to where it will go.
I started off this way, purely Pantsing because I never was good at English classes when it came to the descriptors and rules. Therefore I never learned how to outline like they try and teach you.
I took a what if, and built a story in my mind… Or so I thought. It was actually only part of a story. It had more holes than Swiss cheese. So I set it aside and started looking into what advice successful authors gave.
And guess what? Many don’t use the English class “rules” either, they don’t even remember them. I think one author said he uses what he was taught in english classes as a boy. That’s one out of dozens. When it comes to outlining everyone said they kept tweaking their process until they found what worked best. Many are still tweaking or trying new things in an effort to continually improve.
So I decided to try outlining. At first it was extremely difficult, as I never really understood what an outline really was. Then one author (I really wish I could remember who) said they looked at an outline like a table of contents for an author. Then it clicked, after that it fell into place.
For me, a table of content allowed a reader to either find their place when reading, or find the section they needed in the case of non-fiction. So when I started seeing an outline like my stories table of contents, I had a place to start.
I took the bullet points of the story I had in my head, and wrote them down. Then I played the story out in my mind, and saw where I had major hole I would get caught in, so I revised my outline.
On the latest episode of the SPP #92
(WARNING EXPLICIT CONTENT) Lindsay Buroker talked about her outlining process.
She mentioned when she gets stuck while writing, she does a mini outline for the particular scene she is stuck on. At the time I watched that, I was stuck also.
Now I didn’t write out a mini outline, but I did make one in my head. Suddenly the “writers block” was gone. As with my other outline, I didn’t try and make a strict outline, but the mini outline was more detailed than my original. But then it had to be, it was for a single scene instead of a whole book.
Where I went wrong in my original outline was leaving too big of a space between my bullet points. Now, with that one piece of advice, another lesson is learned.
My process is a combination of many authors advice, little pieces cobbled together to fit my individual style. So my advice this week, don’t be too rigid trying to “do it right”. Take what serves, and leave the rest behind.
Hope this helps all you aspiring authors.
P.S. I added a bunch of links today of places I have found help at. I also added a couple of editors links if you are in the market.