Pages

.

.
Books are available from Indiebound, Amazon, Barnes and Noble and many other fine shops.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

The Outline Lies

I am not an outliner. Not even when I am writing shorter pieces. Sometimes, I have an idea of where I want to go....but often, there is only a title/concept and a pencil. Which means there are infinite possibilities, which is great.

But not all of those possibilities are good. Which is not so great.

Why I wish that I could outline is because it would be so much easier when I start to know what was going to happen. It would be easier to know if the route I was taking would pan out or not.

But I cannot outline because the outline lies.

It is a big fat liar. We're talking liar-liar-pants-on-fire-liar.

It doesn't mean to lie. I mean, it's probably nice enough. It just makes promises that it can't keep. And that is one of my huge pet peeves. Just ask anyone in my family. I mean, if you don't know when you're going to be home, just say, "I don't know when I'm going to be home." Don't say you'll be home at 9 and them come waltzing in at 11:45 and look at me like I shouldn't have been worried or anything. Because I was.

The outline often leads you to believe that a story is something that it's not. (Because, really, the outline doesn't even know what the story is until you-the-writer write it.) It pretends it knows what is going to happen, but until that pencil touches paper (or fingers touch keypad), it is just as lost as the rest of us. But the outline likes to think it has a clue, so it claims it is a structure for your story. Yeah, right.

And it is because I don't trust that little deceiving outline that I often end up taking several paths into a story before I find the one that works, the one that allows the story to reveal itself. This is a pain, but at least it's honest. At least each path tells me the truth, "Hey, lady, I don't know if this is the right way or not....."

Not like that outline, promising the road map of the true story, but offering no more than one possibility.


hrh

19 comments:

Stephanie Faris said...

I generally start the book, then get all the way to that "murky middle" section and end up writing a synopsis, which helps jump start me in the right direction to complete it.

Susan R. Mills said...

I don't outline before I write either. It just stifles my muse. But I have found an outline helpful when revising. It helps me figure out what scenes can go and what ones need to stay.

Renee Collins said...

lol, yes the outline does lie! It's very true. I don't exactly outline, but I usually have a rough idea of where I'm going. And sometimes I'll outline the upcoming two or three scenes.

PJ Hoover said...

i make the outline but almost always deviate. In fact, my outline encourages me to break off and try something new and better, maybe because it knows it isn't very good.

MG Higgins said...

I've promised myself I'll outline my next project, but ... we'll see if that happens. I love seat-of-the-pants writing, although I do need a general idea of the ending so I know where I'm headed. Then I outline the first revision, which often tells me I've made huge mistakes that need correcting. Sigh.

Corey Schwartz said...

Well, I will say this... the easiest (and best) thing I have ever written is THREE NINJA PIGS and that's because the "outline" was already written for me. (Just followed the plot points of the original.)

So, there is something to be said for outlines.

storyqueen said...

Steph- I'm kind of the same, but I don't call it a synopsis....I call it a "manifesto."

Susan-That's probably a good way to do it. It would help to know what it necessary and not so much.

Renee-I definitely look ahead....but I don't plot it out, per se.

PJ-I like your outline....flexible soul that it is. An honest outline....well, that would be something.

MG- I am similar. Once I know the path (because I have traveled it) I can navigate it with more thought and a better map.

Corey-That does not count as an outline!! I would consider that a framework, which I think is different from an outline (at least to me). A framework is a structure, where as an outline is a path....does that make any sense?

Maybe I should retitle my post MY outline lies. Probably there are lots of folks out there who have more truthful outlines than I've got.

Lisa and Laura said...

Our outlines totally lie, but it still helps to have a general idea of where we're going. For us, a lying outline is better than no outline at all!

Yat-Yee said...

So that's why my outlines never pan out. Oh, the betrayal stings.

Myrna Foster said...

So true. My outlines always lie to me too, and the story I find is so much better than what they told me was there. That said, I will probably still outline. It makes me feel like I have some kind of control.

storyqueen said...

L and L- I would think that if you were co-writing with someone, it would probably help to have some sort of document that was shared between the two of you so that you were both aware of the destination....but I think the term outline just won't work. I will let you borrow the term "manifesto" if you like.

Yat-Yee- Yes!! Finally someone who understands. It is the betrayal that hurts the most....the fact that you were naive enough to believe it's silver lies......

Myrna-I think what I actually like is the part about Not having control.....hmmm....

Kasie West said...

This is so true! I want to be an outliner. I've even tried it. But you're right. It lies big time. I'm glad I'm not the only one it's lying to. That's why now, I just, like you, let the story take me down the path and sometimes I have to backtrack.

Christy Raedeke said...

I've tried to explain why I can't outline and have always come up short. You've nailed it - it's a lie! A well-meaning lie! Brilliant.

Carrie Harris said...

We may be related.

I am so with you on this. First off, I don't like it when people say, "I will call you on Monday," and then it's Friday and still no call. I'd rather have them say, "I'll call you next month," so that when they finally get around to it three weeks from now, you're pleasantly surprised at how early they are.

Oh, and I can't outline. I never follow them, and that hurts my brain.

The end.

Amy Tate said...

I LOVE this post. My way of outlining isn't really outlining. I write the plot sequence in PENCIL in my journal that way if I want to change something I'm not locked in to some stupid outline. When I wrote Attack at Fleetwood Hill I changed that darn thing every other day.

ElanaJ said...

Oh my heck! NOW I know why I can't outline! Because it lies. You are so so wise.

Lady Glamis said...

LOL! This post cracked me up. I rarely outline for a first draft. Maybe a VERY loose one halfway through, but I like things to just go on their own so I can discover. :)

Stephanie Perkins said...

I am so far behind on my blog commenting, but I just wanted to say I've been enjoying your blog so much lately. And thanks for the shout out a few weeks ago. You ARE magic.

(Also, uggghhhh, outlines. I feel the same way you do.)

Dawn VanderMeer said...

You crack me up! Those darn outlines...

I enjoy your blog so much, Shelley.