Friday, September 2, 2011

To Outline or Not to Outline?

A break in my diary concerning the way I’m writing A Mad Scientist’s Son to ask:
To Outline or Not to Outline?
Whether it is nobler in the mind’s eyes to scratch out an outline of short or long length or suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune without even a written hint of how you’ll transcribe them onto the page before you begin? Yep, that’s the question.

It seems to me that if you do not outline at all, if you’re one who stumbles along through a first draft, then that’s all there is to say about that. Just do it. Most writers are like this. I am like this about my first draft which is really just a discovery draft. I’ve been thinking about the story for some time but I haven’t written anything down. I just start writing. However, there many places in the manuscript when I just write a few lines for a scene and write something like MORE LATER. This is sort of the Swiss-cheese method. There will be big gaps or holes in this draft. So it will be on the short side, but (VERY IMPORTANT) it will go from beginning to end. I know my end by the end. Next draft I write toward that end.

So in a sense my discovery draft sort of works like an outline except it’s not. Some writers do outline. Some outline a lot and some a little before they begin. I once interviewed Sherman Alexie and he said he always knew the last line of his novel before he started and wrote toward that. Check out how much John Irving outlines here—amazing to me:.

As with all elements of process, you have to do what works for you.

No comments: