I’ve blogged here before about how my first crack at a novel was pounded out on a pilfered typewriter. There was no stopping to edit, and certainly no outline.
This week, I’ve been working on a short story where I’ve meticulously outlined every scene. I’m estimating the outline will be almost a fifth as long as the final manuscript.
What changed? I don’t think outlining is inherently better or worse than winging it (I do something in between when drafting novels, now). But for years, I thought I was simply not an outliner. I’d written something freestyle, so surely everything I wrote should be done in that manner.
Little by little, I tried outlining. I learned something: outlining is useful for me. More useful than fretting at the keyboard without a road map. It’s become an invaluable tool for my writing — one I wished I’d tried earlier.
One of the keys to writing well is figuring out what, in the sea of writing advice, works for you. Writing is largely solitary. There are, it seems, as many ways to write as there are writers.
I’ve tried suggestions, of course, that didn’t work. I used to make police-style dossiers for characters per the advice of a writing book, but these always felt like middle school worksheets — and they never added the promised depth to my characters. So I stopped.
I’ve heard authors rave about how writing is best done in multi-hour blocks. Accordingly, I used to strive to write in such stretches, in a calm room, with a serene mind fully ready for writing. I didn’t get much writing done. Then I had kids and let go of the idea of calm hours alone all together. I learned to write in ten-minute bursts, and discovered that I write better and more consistently in small chunks.
I imagine my process will continue to change, shifting little by little as I figure out what tools and techniques work well for me — or for a particular story. And so today, I’m writing from a tight outline, something I thought I’d never do. Oddly, it’s working fine.
Anyone else have a story about unexpected changes to the way you write?