To outline or not to outline by Jason Rekulak
Outliners are most common among thriller and mystery writers, for obvious reasons. Jeffery Deaver (The Bone Collector) claims that the surprising plot twists of his suspense novels wouldn’t be possible unless he plotted out all of the details in advance; he usually spends eight months researching and writing the outline, and four months writing the manuscript itself.
But non-genre writers use outlines too. John Barth wrote: “I don’t see how anybody starts a novel without knowing how its going to end. I usually make detailed outlines; how many chapters it will be and so forth.”
On the other side of the fence are writers who prefer a more organic approach to their craft; Aldous Huxley wrote, “I know very dimply when I start what’s going to happen. I just have a very general idea, and then the thing develops as I write.”
If you are suffering from writer’s block, try changing your approach. Make a detailed outline of the story – or plunge headfirst into the opening paragraph without any idea where you are going. Either way, the change in routine may be surprisingly effective.
Readers, are you a planner (outliner) or a pantser (fly by the seat)? Personally, I am a basic outliner, but I allow my characters to lead the story, which sometimes takes it into unplanned territory. One funny experience I had while deep in the writing of my 2nd novel, Town Without Mercy, the dialogue between the two protagonists seem to write itself. When I was done, I laughed out loud, saying “That is not what I had in my outline at all.” But the story was better for it.
What have your experiences been in stepping out of your routine? Surprising outcomes?