Part 3 in my Writing Process posts.  (Part 2: writing is here.)


A concept that has plagued me since elementary school.  I won’t get into how my difficulties with outlining were started by my school teachers basically telling me, “Here’s how to do it” and then prescribing me a process that simply did not work for me.

Only recently have I learned the truth.

We all have our own way, but we all outline.

Somewhere in your head, starting back in the plot bunny/planning stage, you come up with a basic concept for your story.  Beginning/middle/end, perhaps.  Or “I know these things will happen.”  Or even just “I know this one exact scene.”  All those questions you’re asking yourself about “What happens?  Who’s in it?  Whose POV?” etc.—those are outlining.

At some point in your writing life, you are likely to outgrow your space and need to move your outlining from your brain to somewhere more concrete.

The benefits are vast and cannot be overstated.  When you keep it in your head, you can miss stuff.  You won’t notice gaps in your plot or in your logic till they show up on paper halfway through writing your story.  If you put things down on paper or computer screen, maybe in list form or spreadsheet or outlining software or mind-map, suddenly you will be able to visually see the bits of your story and see the gaps and maybe move things around if you notice they’re out of order and maybe you’ll even see patterns where “Oh, wait, if this and this then that must mean that THIS will need to go here…”

I finally learned outlining through co-authoring.  Having a writing partner forced me to take stuff I knew out of my brain and put it down so she could see it.  It forced us to talk stuff out and come up with ideas.  It led to page upon page of notes, some of which will never get used but now we KNOW all that stuff if we need it.  And then one day I threw all that stuff we knew into a timeline…and voila!  Suddenly this giant void in the story we’d been facing started to get filled in because we saw stuff and realized what needed to go there and then began to have MORE ideas.

I am not GOOD at outlining.  I am a wee outlining baby.  This is an entire new realm of the writing process for me.  And I know that I should work it and explore it more, because maybe a lot of the other problems I’m having have solutions that lie within this newly discovered territory.

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