A Writer's Journey

There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.

Maya Angelou

Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent.

Victor Hugo

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Writing Wednesday: Outlining

I've never been one to outline projects before starting them. Until recently, I've relied solely on my ability to be a full fledged pantser and write on the fly. This worked to some extent because I could just let the characters navigate themselves to where they needed to go.

My writer friends are a mix of both pantsers and plotters, some enjoying a little bit of both - or planters, as my friend Corinne O'Flynn might say.

I suppose I fall into that latter category. I'm still getting used to the idea of plotting out my ideas and getting the gist of the story on paper in the form of an outline before I actually start writing the story itself. The first half of my WIP was written almost entirely on a pantser's whim, but on the suggestion of one of my CPs, I decided to see if I can get more clarity by outlining the rest of the story.

Reason for this is my vortex of suckery. If you've read my previous blog post on the vortex, you know that it's not a pretty place. The second half of the WIP is where a considerable amount of the action is and therefore, the pacing of the story gets upped a noticeable difference.

I was stuck.

I didn't have the slightest idea where I wanted to take things. I had mapped out the ending and now I just needed to find a way to get there. That's where the plotting comes in handy. I had to sit down and really think about what I needed to happen in order for the events to chronologically be accurate as far as where the story was going. I had to take back some of the control from my characters so that I can guide them to the eventual end of the story.

I have to be honest, I kind of freaked out a little only because I didn't even know where to start with STARTING an outline. So I did the only thing I can think of: I started with a sheet of paper and a pen. Normally, I would pull up a word doc, but something about being able to cross things out and insert little notes wherever you feel like it on that sheet of paper does something to get the creative juices flowing.

So I kept at it and by the time I was done, I had gotten down the major points for the remaining chapters of my WIP. Another thing that my outlining attempt did was help me to keep the pace of the story. I wasn't just flailing blindly into an unknown area, I actually knew what needed to be there in order to move the story along.

Check out some of the great outlining excerpts below from some noteworthy authors:

J.K. Rowling

Jacqueline Woodson

Jenny Davidson

How do you guys feel about outlines and do you use them at all?


  1. No worries. Outlines totally freak me out too. I'm a pantser who is trying to do more outlining because I hate getting to that point in the story where I realize I'm flailing around with no idea where to go.

    It's one reason I haven't written a WORD of this story idea I've had in my head for like half a year now. I can tell it's going to be somewhat more complicated to write, so I don't want to start until I've got some of the main things plotted. :P

    Loved the pics of other people's outlines. I'll have to try pencil&papering it too! And I love the term planters. Hahaha.

  2. Yeah, I'm kinda getting the hang of this planter thing. I'm not quite up there with the plotters yet. And the outlining thing is what I wanted to do with the new idea I have, but it'll have to wait until current WIP is done.

    I'm a total notes kinda gal. Pen and paper. Much cheaper than outlining software. LOL :P