Outlining is something that is a work-in-progress for me. I never used to outline my fiction writing, still do not outline my non-fiction, but I’ve found it can be helpful in both forms if done right.
Some writers are against outlining. I recall reading about Stephen King on outlining and how, for the most part, he was against it. He outlined for Bag of Bones and considered that why the book was so hard to read. He was right, it took me several tries to get through it; there was something different about Bag of Bones in comparison to his other works like The Shining.
It’s nice to know where you’re going in fiction, yet without that feeling of joy in creating, of not knowing where you are going until you’re there, it can be hard whether to decide whether to outline.
I have found new ideas come from outlining though there are negatives. My outlines approach novella length, and this is a mistake I have yet to rectify. I can’t stop myself from actually writing the story; words come to me.
I do not think trying to write one of your first novels without outlining is a mistake. Writers need any confidence boosters they can get, and outlines can help with that. For longer article projects, even school papers, a short outline can do wonders.
I’ve gone so far as to outline short stories, but I’ve found my best short stories have no outlines. This comes from an unpublished fiction writer, yet I’m going to continue writing with and without outlines.
Writing is all about experimenting and finding what works for you. One could do worse than outline. Even if you never look at the outline again the memory of it will help. Outlining can be both a hindrance and a help to blocked writers. Actual writing can be avoided by just outlining countless projects; like researching outlining can make a writer turn away from the writing process.
I used to outline papers for school, and did for many years in college. My confidence up, I stopped outlining thinking I was some great writer who could do everything fresh, filling the pages with plenty of words. It didn’t work out – if there is ever a time to outline it is in a paper for school. Better yet, outline it and show the outline to your teacher.
I don’t outline my short articles either, but, I’ve found, getting five to ten ideas on paper and going from there helps me achieve the length I want for the article. I am on the fence for outlining novels – I have at least two novels outlined that I haven’t touched in months. Yet my first novel began as an outline and is finished.
So, it’s all a hit or miss. Outlines can boost confidence, but need to be used carefully. Ask yourself if you’re ready to write the piece yet. Many writers just put together countless ideas in their head and when they can’t avoid it any longer they start writing on them. This never worked for me, the ideas came, but would be forgotten along with everything else. Get your ideas on paper, think about outlining, and later, when you have the time, reread the outline and change it to the style you want it to be.