To Outline or Not to Outline

I’m not much for outlining. If I feel I need direction, I will sit down and make a plan, but otherwise I prefer to skip it. It feels too constricting – like I’m locked into this idea of where my story should go. I tried outlining once. I plotted everything out, worked on character sketches. Everything they say to do before starting. The result? I never started. I still have the notes lying around and hope to write that novel some day… well that’s the plan. It may end up collecting dust in my drawer.

I prefer to let my characters dictate the story. I let them roam free, do what they want to do. Most times they do things I would never even dream of. In this way I come to know who they are and can then write a more comprehensive character sketch when the time is right. I just clean things up when it’s time to edit.

At some point, though, we all need a little direction. That is where I am right now. At over 25,000 words into the story, it’s time to make some decisions: what will be the main plot and who will have the main POV? I have many subplots (perhaps too many, but they all tie into each other) and would like to narrow it down–pick a main line, a couple of side lines and ditch the rest. So over the next few days, I will try to outline or plot or whatever, to help me focus and move the story forward in the right direction. It may sound a bit disorganized and haphazard, but it works well for me.

What about you? Do you like to plan or fly by the seat of your pants?

One last thing… I’d like to say good luck to everyone participating in NaNoWriMo. The fact that I’m already working on a novel and other circumstances (see One Day at a Time) prevented me from entering this year. Maybe next year I’ll be able to give it a go.


About T. R. Kolbe

I have been writing since July 2010. I wrote one novel although I haven't finished editing it and I don't know that I will. I have also completed 3 short stories and have 3 more that I am working on.
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2 Responses to To Outline or Not to Outline

  1. dante668 says:

    I usually only write up an outline if I have an idea that’s gotten really wedged. It usually helps sort out the tangle of ideas that can crop up, and sometimes some good story directions can come from it.

    • T. R. Kolbe says:

      That makes sense. I always seem to have a tangle of ideas stuck in my head. I write them down on index cards or in my idea book, but I could see it being helpful to outline instead. It might make the ideas clearer and easier to narrow in on a topic. If nothing else, it beats having a bunch of note cards scattered about.

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