Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Trouble With Outlines

The hardest thing in the writing process for me is outlining my book before I start. I wasn't always a believer in outlines. When I attended the Hawaii Writer's Retreat my instructor William Bernhardt (NY Times bestselling thriller author) made me do an outline on my story, even though it was finished. I was adamant that I do not do outlines but he insisted and I did as I was instructed. Wow am I glad I did. It revealed so many problems in my manuscript I was blown away. It showed exactly where there were pacing problems with too much action or lack thereof, revealed issues with character and plot arc, and showed me a ton of things I needed to cut and rearrange. Guess that NY Times bestselling author really knew what he was talking about. Go figure. From then on I was hooked on doing an outline.

That doesn't mean it's easy for me. I get part of an outline done and start getting the itch to write. Then I catch up to where I am on the outline and get impatient. I don't want to waste time on doing an outline, I want to keep pushing forward! That's when I slow myself down and remind myself of the lesson I learned at that first writer's retreat. I will screw it up if I don't outline it. I have no doubt I will, it's just how I am! So I get out the sheets of paper and start working on it. I use my own version of the roman numeral method and map out what I want to happen in each chapter, the key points and all that. Now I'm also outlining a character arc for each of my main characters (learned that one at our Tulsa retreat!).

Despite the difficulty of committing myself to it, I understand the importance of an outline and will always make myself do one. After all, I know it will ensure I end up editing a lot less! Check out my friend Jamie's hilarious and ingenious way of outlining. What is the toughest part of writing for you?


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