Vision: A Resource for Writers
Lazette Gifford, Editor
Vision@sff.net

Outlining ...

here was a time when I'd snarl at that word.  Unlike most of the writers I knew, I never had a problem finishing a manuscript.  I didn't need to outline.  I could -- and often did -- sit down and wrote a novel in a month or two, working on it straight through and writing every day.  I lived with those people and their story, and the story grew from day-to-day much as the plot to real life does.

I still write my shorter material that way, and sometimes even a novel. It's fun and exciting -- but it's not for people who have trouble making it through the middle of a novel.  It's flying without a net.

However, in the last couple years I've started doing increasingly more elaborate outlines for most of my novels.  I started the first outline on a whim.  I was working on one novel, and as will often happen with writers, another story tried to take over my brain.  So I jotted down notes to it, started arranging them, and by the time I had finished the first novel, I had the outline to another.  And I wrote it.  It moved easily, and finished in less time than it usually took me to write a novel.

It was fun.

But I don't need outlines, I still told myself.  I'm not tied to such conventional forms of preparation.  I can write without a net! No strings!

But then, during last year's NaNoWriMo I used a very elaborate outline to write 110,000 words in 11 days.  That shocked even me. But I loved being able to fly through the novel without ever pausing or worrying about what comes next.  I was, I admitted, hooked.  I could work out all the plot problems ahead of time, I could make more elaborate plots for the first draft, and I could write without pause, which was what I really loved.

So, yes... I've become a convert to outlines.  I like outlines of all sorts: Loose ones with just a line per chapter, elaborate ones like my Phase System (see article in this issue), note cards laid out in patterns, and styles I haven't even tried yet. 

I learned something important... you never know what's going to help you make the next big step in your writing if you aren't willing to experiment. The novels I write with outlines generally have more depth and a more coherent plot line in the first draft than the ones I write without an outline. That means less work in rewrites.

Seems like a plan to me!

So experiment with the different methods of writing offered in Vision.  You never know what you're missing until you try it.

Have fun!

Lazette Gifford