Outlining v Winging itJuly 27, 2009 at 8:32 AM | Posted in Uncategorized | 8 Comments
Outlining. Outlining is something everyone does differently and which most writers have a strong opinion on. Some people insist that winging it is the only way to go unless you want to stifle your plot irreparably, and others say that unless you know exactly what’s going to happen then your WIP will be a higgledy-piggledy mess of tangents and confusion.
Of course, there’s always the middle ground, whether that involves having a rough idea of where you want to go but not planning how to get there or outlining the main plot in detail but leaving room for new scenes, new character developments and subplots.
I think that whether you outline or not is quite a personal decision, maybe even one which reflects the order (or lack of order) in your life and the way you prefer to go about things. Everyone has a way which suits them and which works best for them: just because one person prefers a certain way, it doesn’t mean that everyone does. There are lots of ways of getting to say, London, but all of them get there eventually. Does it really matter what the process is when you will all end up with the same product?
Personally, I’ve actually tried winging it, outlining and the middle road. With my first, uncompleted trunk novel, I had no outline at all. I didn’t even know where I was going and I world-built as a went along, leading to many inconsistencies. That novel was a pile of mismatched, random scenes with no connection, no direction, and no plot. Every time I sat down to write, I spent at least half of the time I had set aside for writing thinking what could possibly come next.
My second, also uncompleted, also trunked novel, I made a list of every scene I wanted to include and wrote a paragraph about what I wanted to happen in it. I found that marginally better than my previous method, but it was too confining and gave my characters no room for growth and my subplots no chance.
With my latest two novels, one completed and one about to be completed, I found my perfect method. I knew my plot, the summary, but I left myself room to evolve and change within those loose borders. I wasn’t stifled, and I wasn’t cut adrift.
So I think what I’m trying to say is that everyone should just try and find what is right for them. It might take a while, but everyone’s different and there’s no other way of knowing except for trying things and seeing if they work.
So what do you do, and why do you do it?