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Young Adult Dark Urban Fantasy Author ~

To Outline Or…Not

English: Hot-swap states with transitions appl...

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You had two roads to take, the gut instinct or the outline. You chose to write from your gut, let the story pour from your imagination onto the page. You didn’t think about where it was going because you knew it would get there. You’re 80,000 words in. Done. All feels great. Now what?

Now, Editing. You begin to go through your work chapter by chapter, detail by detail and you realize the transitions aren’t what they should be, could be, need to be or what you thought they were. Here is the biggest issue writing without an outline — headaches. You’ve got a great story but it doesn’t roll off your tongue quite right. It doesn’t work quite the way it sounded in your head.

Now for the rewrite. The biggest pain in the ass ever. It even trumps editing. And that is saying a lot. You rewrite from the beginning, move a paragraph here, a chapter there and think, okay, I can do this, it’s not so bad. Until it is bad. Until you have 30 chapters staring back at you asking to be properly read and all your thoughts become a jumbled, dizzying mess.

Now, let me start from the beginning. I’m not methodical. I’m a jumper. I get hit with an idea and I’m off. It’s my way, my style, my inspiration. But let me say that my style completely bit me in the ass. No outline is a bad idea.

I had notes. Pages and pages of notes, handwritten. I had documents–so many I couldn’t keep track of them all. In the beginning, I thought they were enough. In the end, they weren’t. Not even close. I had too many ideas. Ideas that I couldn’t reign in. Ideas that I couldn’t mold in the way I needed to—wanted to. I paid for those amateur mistakes in the end. Through rewrites, a staggering number of drafts, cuts, edits, and revisions. Close to two years worth.

Now my notes are in an abstract outline form, still free-flowing, but an outline nonetheless. Word to the wise: Get your idea, work it through and outline it. Even if that outline is as simple as a few sentences per chapter–a few ideas. Even if you only have a kernel of an idea of what the beginning, middle, and end of the story should be. In the end you will gain a ridiculous amount of time, a better story and with any luck, your sanity.

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8 responses

  1. Oh but free writing gives you such a buzz!! Spoiling the fun you are! (And yes, I know, rewrites suck…)

    March 5, 2012 at 2:24 pm

  2. Hahaha! And I LOVE free writing too! I don’t love the rewrite 😦
    You know I’ll always be a pantster at heart—just trying to make my job a little easier. Hope your new project is going splendidly. 😉

    March 5, 2012 at 3:44 pm

  3. Pingback: Don’t Think, Just Do. « laney mcmann

  4. Good to know my plan will have a purpose in the end!

    March 19, 2012 at 5:34 am

  5. That’s always the main objective right? 😉

    Good to see you up on the blog, Leigh.

    March 19, 2012 at 8:21 am

  6. We’re living in parallel, or at least our books are. My novel, a “horror romance” will also be out Summer-“ish” 2012 and is the result of a year of writing and over 2 years of rewriting and editing. You know those little toys that kids play, a little tray filled with shifting tiles? You keep sliding this one here and that one there and it looks like a mess until, suddenly, a flamingo! That’s how it was for me on this book and I’m hoping to NOT go through that on the next by somehow integrating outlining into my workflow in a way that doesn’t kill that spontaneous spark that happens when I sit down and write with no idea where I’m headed! BTW, I found my way through this puzzle with the wise guidance of Holly Lisle. Any writers out there struggling with a rewrite should definitely check her out.

    May 22, 2012 at 11:26 am

    • Again, I’m glad to know it’s not just me. Somedays it’s like pulling hair out, other days I feel like scrapping it. I keep telling myself that the next one will be easier. Hoping that’s true. 😉 Did you see my fb wall photo about the octopus? Check it out…. SOOO true.
      I’ll google Lisa. Thanks for the tip. My editor is awesome. And patient. But other eyes are always good. Have a good one, Carl.

      May 22, 2012 at 1:04 pm

  7. Pingback: Building Your Foundation | The Writing Corner

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