Outlining. A word that excites some authors but makes others cringe. It is the first physical step in a long journey from idea through to completed manuscript. Some authors will not outline. This is fine if it is what works best for you. Every individual is different. However, you cannot start a story without at least a plan in mind.
As I have said previously, my first novel Sky Stone, was written without an outline. Before this endeavour I had only before written short stories and poetry. A mental plan was good enough in these situations where I could write out a draft in a single day. However, as Sky Stone progressed, the story began to take unexpected turns, some of which needed serious rectification. The good part about writing without an outline was the excitement of wondering where my characters would take the story. I didn't previously know what was going to eventuate. Sure I knew what the main scenes would eventually be, but what happened in between was a mystery. The bad part of not writing an outline was that on occasion the story became clichéd and predictable. I wrote whatever my mind came up with first, letting the words flow from mind to page.
When I began writing Guardian Core I had a basic outline written. It wasn't an in-depth, step by step outline, just a list (like a timeline) of major events that would occur and how the characters would progress. As I wrote, my ideas continued to develop, but I was able to determine more clearly how those ideas would benefit the story. Overall, Guardian Core has been coming together in a much cleaner manner. For me, outlining hasn't taken any of the fun out of the writing but instead has made the process more fulfilling.
Every author outlines differently. Some authors will write pages of notes depicting exactly how the story will come together. Others, like myself, write on the most important assets then let the rest grow and mature as the imagination sees fit. A story the length of a novel requires many details, especially when considering speculative fiction where world building may be required. I personally believe that it is more productive to allow the mind time to mull over the main plot and create the added flourishes. I find the best of these ideas come to me while already writing.
Outlining, like many aspects of writing and creation of art, can be done in many ways. Those ways will come to each individual through experience. These ideas are from my own experiences and what I have learnt works for me. It doesn't matter how someone tells you to do things. Take on that information then discover your own method from there. In the end, your writing is your creation and you should approach and nurture it in any way you think is best.
Scarlett Van Dijk
Image courtesy of David Castillo / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
A Writer's Tale
Scarlett Van Dijk
Writer of young adult, fantasy series, the Sky Stone series, poetry and short stories.
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