Why an Outline is Just an Outline

I have written almost two full books now with a third in the works. Each time, I write an outline of the scenes that I see in my head to guide my story. I don’t go crazy. I do a lot more with character than I do with plot. I like to know the people I am writing about to make them real. My goal is always to give them an actual voice. In my view, if I know them well then the story will develop authentically.

In any of my writing, I always go in with the end in mind. I have an idea of where I want it to go. Not a single time though, have I followed the outline I drafted to the end. The reason why is simple: it isn’t my story, it’s the character’s. Often, when I am writing, my idea of what I wanted to occur doesn’t work with what I have already written or with my characters. Each time this has happened, my story has twisted and turned in ways that make the story better, and make my characters better. Perfect example: In my current manuscript I wanted to dump my main character on her ass and leave her there, but it wasn’t working. I came up with a perfect star-crossed lovers angle that works beautifully.

The moral of the story? Don’t be so rigid in your outlining that you force the story to go somewhere it shouldn’t. As corny as it sounds, my stories are growing entities. They change and grow as my character’s do. Flexibility is a writer’s best friend.

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1 Comment

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One response to “Why an Outline is Just an Outline

  1. One of my mottos for teaching was Monitor and Adjust…it works for writing too. 🙂 Nice post, Caitlin.

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