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Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Magic Of An Outline

I am not a plotter. I follow outlines about as well as I follow recipes, which is to say, I look at the ingredient list and do whatever I want with it. I have tried plotting, especially for NaNoWriMo, and by chapter three I'm running off in another direction entirely.

But that's just the first draft.

Around draft three I usually write up a spare outline/synopsis hybrid. It's the bare bones of what I have and what the book still needs. I flesh it out, listing all the things I need to include in the chapter. This is an outline I love. Why?

It's magic!!!! *throws sparkles in the air*

By the third draft I know the characters well enough to say, "This is a very Evan/Tabitha/Sam/Ice thing to so." and I can plan scenes out. I don't think you can do that with the first draft. With the first draft, you take an idea and charge in like the weeping page boy who grabs a swords, charges the enemy, and miraculously doesn't die in the first five seconds.

So, I write my outlines later, when I know the character's tempers and the full shape of the story. Then... MAGIC! *throws sparkles in the air*

An outline means never wondering, "What comes next?" Or, "What should I write here?" Or saying, "I don't want to write today." An outline means sitting down, opening a file, glancing at the outline like it was a to-do list, and writing the chapter. No thinking, creativity, or brains required. All the hard work of "What goes HERE?"

The secret to making an outline Magic! Is, actually, stepping away from the computer/paper/pen/whathaveyou. Between Draft Yuck and Outline Magic is time when you envision the story. It runs through your mind like a movie. You walk around, reset the props, and feel the Voice of it... then your write the outline.

Which is why I don't recommend it for a first draft.

Some people have their books fully envisioned before they type word one, they've drafted enough of the book and an outline before draft one works for them. They are plotters. They will follow an outline. They are awesome.

Some people have a crazy idea, some other crazy ideas, and smidge of talent. They will write a draft, edit a bit, and have an amazing book. They are awesome.

The rest of us will work, write crazy things, outline later, edit like mad ferrets, and become easily confused if some tries to make us follow an outline for draft one. We are awesome too.

Wherever you are on the spectrum, outlines are Magic! if you know how to work with them. My proof? Eight thousand words written in four hours on Saturday. Because I had an outline.

Happy writing.
- Liana


  1. Rock ON! (And... I write a lot like you. Outline = LATER)

  2. I'm having difficulty getting into my first draft of a new novel. I might just try an outline-- never done it before for a first draft but maybe that's what I need.