Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Outlines and Stilettos

I know writers who plot every twist and turn in their story. Who can write from a synopsis. I admire this kind of writer. I am not this kind of writer. Which surprises me. Every other aspect of my life is done by schedule. I pre-plan what I will eat for the week, when I will workout. I pre-plan my savings to accommodate big purchases. If I have a problem, I devise a plan to fix it, then follow said plan. I am an itinerary kind of person.

Except when I write. To me, outlines are like stilettos. They look nice, but aren't meant for long-distance travel. Like chapter two. Or up a flight of stairs. Or three stairs.

The point is, I can only plot so much before it feels wrong, like when you accidentally get in the shower with your bra on. Something just doesn't feel right. Like I'm being stifled during the one time I get to be really free.

So, um, what about you? To plot or not to plot? Stilettos or flip flops?


  1. I'm a total outline girl. I was converted to outlines during a 2 Year Novel Class. My current revision distress is caused by not sticking to my outline, and I'm swearing (not that kind! ok, yeah, maybe that kind) that I will never stray from my outline again.

    Of course, I know I will :)

  2. I just. Can't. Do it. I can jot down a few general things for plot, but I'm too fickle. It does make for more editing, but overall, less alcohol...

  3. Hi Scarlett,
    LOL! What a great analogy about outlines and stilettos. I am with you on this! I absolutely love high heels but don't wear them for long walks ;)
    Outlines? Who needs them? I guess my dislike for outlines began in university because the professors "force me" to write outlines. Ugh!
    I write my stories from my head straight to paper. It's the best way for me. Oh, and by the way, I wear flip flops at home when I'm typing my stories ;)

  4. Love your analogy. I feel the same way about stilettos! But if I had to choose between flip-flops and stilettos, I can't do it - I trip in both.

    I don't outline. And, like you, I'm pretty organized in other areas of life. It's fun to have my manuscripts to surprise me like I hope they will my readers.

  5. Yeah, I understand Theresa. Flip-flops feel too much like a wedgie, just on my feet. (Sorry Claudia!).

    Outlines are just creepy. What you mean summarize what my book's about??? How am I supposed to know when I haven't even written it yet? :)

    But I hear that won't fly with editors...

  6. Anna, try this. Tommie Lynn sent a link to the Snowflake Plotting method. Even if you veer from the original basic structure you'll still have a single sentence summary and a one paragraph blurb. If that's as far as you go, at least you know where you're headed. But if you can fill in enough detail to make the single page synopsis you might find it keeps you on course without feeling too restricted. You can't get much detail in a single page. And at the end of the journey that synopsis might not require near as much modifying as you expected.


    This equates to slip on shoes. Easy on, easy off. If I'd known about this before I wrote my first book it wouldn't have taken 5 years of revisions of such major scope that I had to split one book into two series, a minimum of four books. I'd have known something was wrong when I couldn't fit the synopsis on one page. Duh. I totally forgot this simple method until I read your blog and now I'm going to try to keep book 2 under better control, albeit loose control. I hate feeling restricted too, but it's better than taking years to finish a book.

  7. I love this analogy! I'm like you, I am such a planner with every other aspect of my life - but I find with writing, even though I've TRIed to follow an outline--it just never works out :(

  8. Me neither! It's inevitable that I will become even more brilliant as the story progresses, so why stifle the genius with a set course? (Ha!)

  9. This is hilarious.
    I write outlines. I even, in particularly obsessive moments, revise outlines. But once I start writing I view them as a thing of the past. The story can get so much better than I'd thought.
    I guess what it comes down to is I like to wear the stilettos, but I know I'll be taking them off once the real dancing starts.

  10. I agree latunda! Outlines are for decoration only!

  11. No outline per say. I do have a journal (or use my notes function on my phone) that I jot down ideas, but they are random. I know how I want it to begin and end, in my mind, but the rest is a mystery! I like it.