Do you outline? According to J A Konrath, it is essential. This man has written an awful lot of really good books. Action abounds in all of them. They are fun and exciting crime novels so he must know a bit about writing.

Outlining takes me back to middle school, or Junior High if you are as old as I am. And it wasn’t a very fun time writing an outline for a story that had already been written, so why would I want to write one for a story that is bumping around in my head?

Download his free “Newbie’s Guide to Publishing” and read all about outlining and more. He has sound reasoning and valid advice. He states that “Many new writers feel like they can wing it, and usually around page 50 the story comes to a grinding halt and gets parked in a drawer until they die” and I heartily agree. Of course my know-it-all self just wants to sit down at the computer and bang out a wonderful manuscript a la Jessica Fletcher in “Murder She Wrote”. (I can’t imagine to compare myself to a real person, a fictional character will do.) This is a romanticized version of writing a lot of people have, myself included. In reality, writing is hard work, but if it was easy anyone and everyone would do it.

 

In reality, I sat down and wrote the first few chapters of three cozy novels that are languishing on my hard drive. Admittedly they are pretty awful. The ideas aren’t bad, but they just go no where.

So outlines are in order from now on. Konrath is a gem for new writers, he gives you outline guidelines. Where was he when I needed him back in the 70’s? He would have made English much, much easier to swallow leaving me more time for socializing.

Many websites have examples of outlines and debate the validity of using and/or not using one to write fiction.
Daily Writing tips at http://www.dailywritingtips.com/to-outline-or-not-to-outline-that-is-the-question/ has a nice look at outlining in a nutshell.

First they list the advantages of outlining

1. Not getting lost. This is seen by the website as the biggest advantage. Some writers insist this is the best way for them to write until they run out of steam. If you have an outline, it is a guideline or road map to what is going to happen next. It keeps writers on track.

2. Deciding whether your work is good or not. Outlines show you flaws in your manuscript and shows where the plot lags. Outlining beats writing for months then finding out you have major plot flaws.

3. Straying off the outline if you get a better way. In short stories I’ve written, my characters often have ideas of their own. Outlines are guidelines and sometimes you make a better story by taking a detour. If you have an outline, it will allow you to see if your deviation from the original plot will fit or not.

4. Writing with a sense of flow. This is basically decribed as keeping you on track. Letting the writer write.

On the flip side of the coin, they listed the disadvantages of outlining

1. Spoils the mystery and the fun. Here is where the author ego of freedom and open creativity bumps heads with the organized job of writing. Both are valid. Both work for some but not for all. It is up to you to decide what will work best. A third option is called the “Snowflake Method” outlined by Randy Ingermanson http://www.advancedfictionwriting.com/art/snowflake.php . Ingermanson outlines 10 steps that offer an alternate type of outline for your work. It might just work for you, check it out.

2. May not be as good as you first thought. Personally, I don’t see this as a disadvantage. If it stinks, why waste your time? I would rather have a better idea brewing and go with that instead.

3. Just doesn’t seem to agree with your writing style. Back to the muse dictating your words. My thoughts are to outline loosely and let you muse fill in the blanks. We’ll all see how that works out as I keep you posted.

I need a road map to keep from running out of steam or going off a cliff accidentally. So outlining is in my immediate future. How do you write?

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