Friday, May 3, 2013

To Outline or Not To Outline

Flexibility is required in writing even if you understand your personal process. By definition your style is in process because you're constantly learning, revising, improving. Perfection is the final achievement, the end of process, of learning. Personally, I think perfection is death of creativity but striving for perfection through the fluid nature of evolution, that is purpose!

"Strong Enough" was written without an outline. It was a free fall that I value but don't want to repeat because It was a long path. It was precious for its lessons, but I hope I've honed a few techniques! A particular lesson learned was outlining. Do you know what an outline is in hindsight? A timeline. By applying a timeline, I brought "Strong Enough" into order. I've outlined almost everything since.

But there's a new lesson. Outlines can be too confining. 

During NaNo 2010, I wrote a first draft of "Graffiti" with an outline. Sure inspiration cropped up unexpectedly, and I followed it, but I had mile markers that I returned to. I see now that the constraints limited me. I have a first draft that will mostly be tossed aside. Was this a waste of time? No. For this story, I needed to write this draft so that I could write a better version. I'll be starting over, but with a richer instinct for the depth of this Dystopian novel. 

In 2011, I pushed through "Lily" and was grateful for the outline. I discovered new aspects and then meshed them with my outline. I have a solid story that now needs a ton of research to take it to the next level. Three cheers for outlines!

2012's NaNo was a .... dare I say failure? Nah, that word has no business in process unless you quit. I had a loose outline but without mile markers, I floundered. Finally I admitted, I just wasn't interested in my story. NaNo people will tell you to just write and let the story go where it will. They're 100% right, but I was at an important editing stage in "Strong Enough" and that was where my interest lay. I don't regret it. And since then, "Wanderlust" has percolated on a back burner until a comical approach bubbled up that I think is much more interesting.

This month, I've given myself the goal of writing the first draft of "Anonymous Blog of Mrs. Jones." I struggled against my outline last night but this time, I pushed through and told myself to see the outline in a fluid state--when I come up for air, I'll check the outline, like spotting the shore when you're swimming in the deep. I'll write for now with the shore insight, and use a timeline to bring order. 

Just write. 

Just do it.