Day 132 – Outline or Just Write? Why Co-Dependency is Working For Me

Decided today to throw in the towel with the whole outlining thing. I’m getting nowhere but hemmed in. It’s just not working for me. At least, not in its current form. (Maybe I’m a feckless fool after all…!)

Okay, I’m not giving up on the whole outlining thing I guess. Thing is, I need an outline. I just can’t seem to write one. So I made a compromise with myself. I’m going to outline as I go along.

Sound counter-productive? It just might be. But as far as I can tell, an outline is necessary for two main reasons:

  1. To know where you’re going and how you’ll get there
  2. To develop and unfold the story in an acceptable, storytelling fashion

I already know basically where I’m going, thanks to the work I’ve put into the first draft. And I know (roughly) how to present the story. But when I try to put it down in outline fashion, the whole thing just seems contrived to me. And annoying. (Especially this last one.)

So I made a compromise with myself. I’ll develop an outline as I write the second draft. This way, I’ll still be able to track how things like plot and theme and characters are developing, but not have to rope myself into some strange exercise that my writer’s mind just can’t seem to fathom.

Will it work? I’m not sure. But this is, after all, a creative and exploratory process, so I’m going to give it a try.

It’s paid dividends already. I’ve officially started the second draft today! So that’s something. And you know what? I feel good and loose and free again. I started with the new fake Foreword I developed and then built on my latest “new beginning” and I’m liking what I’m reading so far.

Speaking of which, I started reading a bit of the first draft, and I’m liking that too. A little rough perhaps — that’s what rough drafts are for though — but I like the language. I’ll have to work it into the new style I’ve developed, but for the most part, the basics are there.

This whole approach though might bite me in the ass later. I’m not recommending outlining on the fly to anyone. But I’m desperate. I need to do something to get things going again. So far, this feels right.

I’ll direct your attention to the “Novel-o-meter” at the right there. Finally got some red going!

More to come tomorrow.


Novel Writing Totals – Second Draft

Hours Today: 2
Words Today: 1,386
Hours Total: 2
Words Total: 1,386

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2 Responses to Day 132 – Outline or Just Write? Why Co-Dependency is Working For Me

  1. Steve Hall says:

    Hi Graham,

    Subscribed to your blog this morning, after reading your comment on mine. This was the first article my feed reader brought up, and I was struck by this:

    I’ll develop an outline as I write the second draft.

    I’m a self-proclaimed “pantser” myself, but now that my first draft is finished and I’m about to start the first rewrite, I realize how an outline could help. There are scenes I intended to write, that never actually made it into the first draft. I can definitely see the utility of having an outline, so I can try to figure out, first, whether those unwritten scenes would add anything to the book, and second, where to put them.

    I’m definitely enjoying your process of discovery, both about yourself, and your writing: I just wish I’d gotten here five months ago!

  2. Graham Strong says:

    Yes, four out of five outliners will cringe at this statement. How can you outline as you are writing? Isn’t that like drawing the plans while you’re building the house?

    I don’t think so. The outliners out there like to pre-plan their journey. There’s nothing wrong with that, by any means — it’s just not for panters like us, I s’pose.

    But the other important reason to outline is to make sure the proper story points are occuring at the proper times. In that case, you can draw the map as you go. Then you can visually see where things aren’t lining up, and be able to plan how to tweak the story to get those points to line up before actually delving in.

    I’ll underline that this is the theory, not a rule — I’ll know for sure once the second draft is done. But I’m finding it very useful so far…

    It’s all, to steal your words, a process of discovery. Glad you’re along for the ride!


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