Day 15 – “O” Outlining
A woman after my own heart, one of my favorite authors, Kate Morton, said it perfectly in a post she wrote for her blog years ago, titled “How do I love thee, Notebook?” How I love thee, indeed! I raved about my love of note taking in my post yesterday, though the focus was more on my intense need to have a notebook of some kind in my purse or pocket at all times, always at the ready to jot down observations and experiences.
Outlining is a far different obsessive matter… I have tried, I have truly tried to outline using a more efficient, electronic system. Microsoft OneNote was my go-to when I attempted outlining and planning on my computer. I do like and appreciate how organized the software is, with its notebooks and tabs and sections. I used it for about a week before reverting to my old-school method of plotting and planning via notebooks.
I started explaining my process in my post on character development, detailing how I take copious notes regarding everything there is to know about said character, mapping out family trees, lists of characteristics, personality traits, etc. This compulsive need to get any and everything down translates to my general outlining as well. Whether the outlining project at hand be scene development, dialogue, relationships between characters, developing setting, etc., I have to get it all down before I can begin to actually write.
Once I have all of these small details written and laid out and thoroughly described, I can start piecing them together like a puzzle, working on formatting, structure, and flow. I have a number of pages set aside in each notebook, with chapter titles at the top of each page (Chapter 1) and then write out sticky notes with a brief description of each scene, each event, each important incident, and move around these notes until I have everything structured. It is a similar concept to that of using index cards and rearranging the order of the cards until you get the flow and transitions between scenes just right. Then, when it comes time to write that scene, I reference back to my outlines on that scene or event.
I never stop outlining. Even when I have the first draft of a chapter written, I’ll still take notes and plan new ideas to implement when I get to the editing phase. It is an ongoing process which I absolutely love and would feel completely lost without. I simply can’t start writing without that road map in place. There is something about physically writing it all out vs typing it via some software or system that makes it seem more “real” to me. I retain the information and become more intimately involved with the creation of the story.
How do you outline? Do you employ the manual method like me, or do you use software of some kind? Do you even outline or do you just start writing? Do you enjoy this part of the writing process or do you abhor it?