novel writingWriting Fear Free

Writing Fear Free: Outlines

Confession time: I despise outlines.
Throughout shcool–er school–I did my level best never to write one, but I have made a great personal sacrifice and written two outlines to help you with yours.
How to Outline Your Novel
Two Strategies by Jennifer Becton

I. Sit at computer.
     A. Contemplate the beauty and horror of the blank page.
     B. Try to remember the rules for outlining from high school.
     C. Ask self if you have to have an even number of sub-categories or if this was some evil rule your teacher created to torture you.
     D. Decide you just don’t care anymore.
II. Write novel.
III. Write outline (but only if required by agents and publishers).

Or

I. Sit at computer.
     A. Contemplate the beauty and horror of the blank page.   
     B. Try to remember the rules for outlining from high school.
     C. Ask self if you have to have an even number of sub-categories or if this was some evil rule your teacher created to torture you.
     D. Decide you just don’t care anymore.
II. Make a list of the general course of action of your novel.
     A. All characters are introduced.
     B. Things happen.
     C. Things get worse.
     D. Climax (roughly 3/4 of the way through the text).
     E. Things are resolved, either to your protagonist’s joy or sorrow.
III. Use this list to help plan your plot.

You will notice some similarity between my two outlines, but the most important part is deciding you just don’t care anymore. This is your decision not to get stuck in the outlining phase. I have read scores of books that suggest copious outlining, even to the extent of writing every action of the book on notecards so you can move them around to help with plotting.

Are you kidding me?

Ok, well, I’m sure there are people whom this will help, but this is a huge trap for writers who are nervous about the process. It is a place to do all that stewing and hemming and hawing I’ve been warning about. This is where you will be tempted to second guess yourself and to nitpick your plot until there’s nothing left of it. Resist this temptation. This is the writing phase, not the editing phase. Do not mix the two! When the manuscript is finished, then you can critique yourself. But not now.

So I suggest doing a rough outline, and only if necessary. Once your rough outline is done–or not–it is time to dive happily and excitedly into the text!

3 thoughts on “Writing Fear Free: Outlines

  1. Hi, Jennifer! Thanks for stopping by my blog and joining in the hop! I'm a new follower of your blog. Looking forward to reading your posts!

  2. Hey, nice outlines. 🙂 I think what this post proves is that different processes work for different people. I'm sure the hyper-detailed outline must work for some people while for others it just stymies the process, and so by no means should those writers force out an outline just to do it. There's no one right way to write and I love that this post gives the okay for writes to scrap the dreaded outline.

  3. Hi Lisa and welcome! I enjoyed your blog too!

    Nicki, you are so right. Everyone has their own way of creating, and part of my goal on this blog is to encourage anyone who wants to write to stop worrying about doing it wrong and just do it! Write Fear Free!

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