To outline or not to outline

July 2, 2013 at 7:30 pm

Do authors need to write an outline when they are about to write a novel? I’d be interested to know whether or not my author friends do this. As far as my own writing goes, I have never bothered to do an outline, not even when I was at school. I always considered them a boring waste of time. Why write an outline when you can write the story itself? I deliberately steered clear of them, even in exams. I never understood why the teachers pushed the idea of an outline so much. Maybe they needed something that showed there was direction to the story in case the student didn’t get enough time to finish it.

I still don’t like outlines too much, but I recognise that some people find them incredibly helpful. I guess it’s just another of those areas where people tend to differ. For some authors it probably helps to plot things out on paper (or computer!). I find I do all the plotting either in my head or when my first draft is in front of me, as sometimes I don’t know where my story’s going to go until the characters start speaking, and that would make an outline a bit too long, I think! So, if you’re starting out as a writer, perhaps trying an outline is a good idea to see if it works for you, but don’t force it if it doesn’t. We all have different ways of doing things.



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