To outline or not to outline??? To what degree, and HOW, should one organize one’s thoughts and one’s plans for a piece of fiction, especially a piece as long as a novel, before diving in and starting to write?
That’s a big question, and everyone who writes successfully, I think, does things differently. A number of people use outlines, and that’s great: if you can be flexible. FLEXIBILITY is the biggest issue where fiction and outlines are concerned. You must always have wriggle room for your characters to develop, to speak to you, and to take charge and forge their own paths. My characters, at least, have often led me to places I never expected, and if I had stuck to a previously developed outline and forced them to act in ways that turned out to be contrary to their natures, well, my novels just wouldn’t make such sense at all. They wouldn’t be good, in any sense.
I don’t develop outlines because, personally, I’m the kind of writer who would just deviate from them halfway through and find them worthless, and then grow frustrated that I spent so much time developing the outline in the first place. But that’s just me. A LOT of writers I know are able to work flexibly with outlines, and they swear by them. Great!!! I imagine these writers have a MUCH better idea of who their characters are before they begin writing than I do. That would give them a clear idea of how their characters would respond to a given situation at the outline stage, and allow for an outline that more or less matches the final product.
I consider discovery the best part of the writing experience, and love the way my characters reveal themselves to me as I go. This does mean I do extensive additions, deletions, and changes after the first draft, but I’m okay with that. That’s my system and it works for me. I’m a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants kind of author, which I find ironic because I am a total control freak, organized and on top of everything in the rest of the life (well, more or less.)
So, I’m VERY curious as to what other writers think as to this topic. Do you use outlines? Why or not why? If you’re a reader, not a writer, what do you think about the situation? Do you think writing from an outline would affect the final project, one way or another? How would you write if you took up a novel? Please do comment. Can’t wait to hear your thoughts!