If you thought outlining a story was hard, just wait. I decided to try my hand at outlining my latest project, instead of jumping in headfirst. I found that many of the problems I encounter writing the story don’t go away, just because you make an outline first.
I’ve always seen outlining as “cheating;” trying to get the answers before the test. And, in a way, it is. At least for some writers. I think some writers think outlining will get them out of that icky work of actually coming up with ideas. But the same problem persists: trying to figure out what happens next.
But what can be said for outlining is that it makes getting over that hurdle a little bit easier. It’s like writing your book in miniature, a sketch of a sketch (a thumbnail, if you will). And because you’re not wading through 10,000+ words at that point, trying to make sense of it all, you can forge through the tough parts faster.
Because forge you must. The secret to getting over those blocks is to give up whatever preconceived notion you had about your story and just come up with something. It doesn’t have to be good. It doesn’t even have to make sense. You just have to put down what happens next. Even if it’s far from perfect.
Yeah, you can do that by simply writing your story. But the advantage of an outline is that you can quickly survey your story and decide where it should go next, in a way you can’t without one.
Doesn’t make the writing any easier. It’s not a magic formula. It might just be a mental trick. But anything that gets you through the middle of your book, to the end, it’s worth trying.
I finished the outline for I AM HADES. It’s far from perfect. Truthfully, the actual story outline is far from what it will eventually be. Chances are, I will change quite a bit about the story, by the time everything’s said and done (I don’t even have the characters’ names, for crying out loud). But that’s not the point.
Who even expected an early draft to be the final work? The same can be said about an outline. It just has to be there, like a weak light guiding your way. You’ll find your own path, if you keep walking. But, man, that light helps out a lot.
I’m not sure what it will be like writing this story, with an outline. Maybe it’s a breeze. Maybe it won’t matter. Maybe I’ll end up facing the same problems I always face. We’ll find out.