Outline omission, oh dear

Posted: December 20, 2010 in process
Tags: , ,

Would you take the car out without knowing where you were heading and how to get there?

I thought not. In fact, so many people use Sat Navs these days that I think my point is proven without asking. We all do better if we know where we’re going.

How does this relate to writing?

Well, I’ve been studying outlining again recently. It’s a really good tool for making sure the story has a beginning, middle and end, and that the story will also have an arc that climbs securely to the major climax before climbing down to the startling dénouement (I wish).

The program I use both to outline and to draft, edit and compile my writing is Scrivener. I’ll write more about that software soon, but seeing as how it’s just been released in beta form for Windows too (I use a Mac), do pop over to Literature and Latte if you’d like to get in on the act sooner.

Back to outlining. To me, this means compiling a list of discrete scenes that can be put in order and that, between them, tell the story of the plot. Then all I have to do is write it up. I can always adjust things as I go, of course, but the outline is there as a guide and as a surety against the novel being rubbish when I get to the words The End.

Anyway, I’m half way through my new novel for young people of 10 to 12, and I just want to confess that, for once, I didn’t complete the outline before I started. So here I sit, with a disjuncture between the place where things start getting really bad and the last few scenes where I know what will happen. A few thousand words with no outline… oh dear.

So basically, what I’m doing now is what I should have done before – filling in the missing scenes in outline form. It’s like being kept behind after school to do one’s homework properly.

It’s embarrassing, and even annoying, but since it’s so cold outside, it’s no real hardship to snuggle under a blanket with my MacBook Air and sort it all out. I’ll let you know how it goes. In the meantime, here’s a great post by Margaret McGaffey Fisk on planning your novel, which includes outlining advice. Pop over and have a read if you’re interested.


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