Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Add a Dash

I am a wonderful list-maker. I number things with ease, and I have a deep appreciation for bullet points. If so inclined, I can break down any process, map out coherent directions, and organize a hectic day into a concise To Do list. The problem is, I'm generally not inclined to do any of those things.

This becomes a problem when I write. You see, I'm a firm believer in "going with the flow." I like to take an idea and run with it. And for the most part, that's not a problem. I've written entire novels based on nothing more than a general idea of what my main character will look like. But I am also fondly known as the Queen of Twists. And when those twists twist themselves into additional story lines that inspire one or more sequels, my lack of planning comes back to haunt me.

Luckily, I have discovered a happy medium. I embrace my desire to "wing it" for the first few chapters (more if I'm working on a sequel and I need to reintroduce characters and address how much time has passed between novels and where everyone is right now) before I sit down and outline, first, what happened in those chapters, and second, the rest of the book. I've even gotten as far as twenty chapters into a novel (I write short chapters) before I had to stop and ask myself what the hell I was thinking. I find this impressive, because in that same novel, I had upward of a dozen different story lines going, though I did realize what a nightmare it was to tie them all together in the end (which, consequently, was accomplished because I stopped to map it out somewhere along the line).

So, though I was never a big fan of outlining while writing, I do find it useful the more complex a story becomes. I would recommend this process to any writers with an innate desire to fly-by-the-seat-of-their-pants who don't wish to later rewrite half of a story because it doesn't all fit together.

All that being said, I don't think I'll ever find it in me to outline BEFORE I start a novel, but I guess I'm at least pointed in the right direction.

- Liz


  1. Liz - Going with the flow is good, but you're right--I can get mired in a swamp of conflicting or unattached threads that way.

    While I always think it would be nice to have an outline like a roadmap, ideas I like in the beginning seldom work when I try to use them. I have a list of events or "what's next" that I keep revising.

  2. Yeah, it never really works out the way I plan, but a few key bullet points don't seem to hurt. It's also a bonus when I take a break from a project, come back three months later, and I've forgotten where the story was going.