Why I love outlines

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This CBC 12×12 is not so much for dedicated writers as it is for disorganised, overwhelmed writers like me.

Some use the BOC method and write away. The just sit for an hour or two every day, and keep writing. They write hundreds of thousands of words, and then later start chipping them away.

Some, like me, cannot do that because they are not clear/adventurous/disciplined enough. Or they are not that kind of epic writers, and they cannot imagine writing so. Many. Words and then deleting them all in the name of editing.

Some, like me, need to have a framework to start building a story.

I spent a lot of time – eight years to be exact – trying to write a novel. It didn’t happen. I am a visual writer. I started my career writing picture books/comic books and they remain my first love. I do write short stories, but nothing over 2000 words. I have too many ideas floating around, the thought of faithfully sticking to one idea/novel for months, years, gives me the shivers (rhyme unintended).

So. This is where an outline helps me. When I get an idea for a story, it usually is a WHAT IF question.  I know what the tale is going to be about (So and so is going to aim for such and such, and will they succeed?). Often the ending comes to me first, but not always. But I have no idea what comes in the pages between the first and the last chapter – yep, I have absolutely no idea what happens of all that when I start page 1.

Normally that sends any budding writer screaming to the hills. That is why for a long time I had a folder full of novel ideas and little else. But ever since I started to outline, thanks to a plotting class I took last summer at SavvyAuthors, I found out a way to keep writing and finish that book.

When I outline, I inadvertently flesh out the story. When I separate the plot line into chapter headings, I end up having a workable Table of Contents. And that means I can concretely see the end. I can reassure myself – see, Radhika, there are only 12 chapters. Even if you write 500 words a day, you can birth this baby in a month (there will always be those 5 days where we won’t write anything – may be a special occasion or a family emergency. For me, it usually is PMS, grrrr.) Only that promise of “light at the end of the tunnel” gives me the impetus to be disciplined and committed.

That’s why I love outlines. And that’s how I finished my draft in a month.

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