Outlines: Why Bother?

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After finishing my short story for FIYAH Magazine, I admit that I’ve fallen into a slump. Writing’s a big investment of energy. I do it because I like to, and because I want to share my work. There’s no guarantee anyone will like what I’ve done. That’s depressing to think about, but its on my mind every time I’m typing, and it tempers some of what I write. For the next few projects I’ve been mulling through, I’m trying to ease the worries that come with writing by making outlines.

Tom recommended I read Writing the Novel: From Plot to Print to Pixel by Laurence Block. It’s a quirky book full of advice I don’t think the writer’s ever committed to himself. During one chapter he discusses outlining novels–again, something he doesn’t ever do–and how everyone has their own way of approaching it. While some people teach seminars on the subject or write books about outlining, I found Block’s explanation to be refreshing: do whatever works for you.

Illustration by Esbjorn Jorsater

I’ve always held outlining in high esteem but I’ve never been great at them. I often treat first drafts as outlines themselves, as clay that needs to be reshaped over and over until I like what I see. But I no longer see that as an efficient use of my time, not for something as ambitious as a novel. I’m already a slow typist and an even slower writer. If I can account for most of my story before typing it, then writing the novel can be easier. Perhaps I should think of the outline as the true first draft of a novel.

I wish I had a giant whiteboard to outline on.