Saturday, May 22, 2010

Writing by Outlline

In my previous post I talked about using the Tarot to outline your project. There is no doubt that having a good outline is the preferred way to tackle any writing project. It's very comforting to know which way the story is going so you can take it there. I read recently that writing without an outline is like jumping in the car and starting on a journey without knowing where you are going. That would be anathema to many people. On the other hand, for some, it would be the epitome of adventure. 

I read a book by Stephen King on writing a while back. I like what he said. I have to admit it's been awhile and I don't have it in front of me, so I may be sadly misquoting, if so, forgive me Mr. King! What he said was along the lines of "anything anybody tells you about writing is wrong, including me!" His point, I believe, is that you can read tons of books on writing, and I have, some of them agree on some points, disagree on others. You can become greatly confused unless you realize that what each  writer is suggesting  is what works for that one writer. By all means, read, get ideas, find methods to try. Don't be too upset if they don't all work for you. You will find tools that work with your project, and your own style of working. Writers are, if anything, different individuals. All of us have different viewpoints, different skills and different interests. Pick what works for you, toss the rest and don't feel too bad about it.

Another point, at least for me, is project specific. In my own experience no two projects have evolved the same way. One story grows from a character who appeals to me, another from a scene that appears full blown, still another appears with the ending already known. Each has its own problems, and requires different amounts and kinds of work to finish. You do what you have to do. Now and then a scene appears from nowhere, I write it down, another scene pops up later and it goes with that one. Not a very organized way to work, but it happens. Notebooks, file cards and/or the computer work well to contain those elements. Easy to enter them, file them (especially using the TiddlyWikiWrite tool I talked about in a previous post), and re-assemble them when the time is write. It's especially good when you are working on project A, and while you're in that creative frame of mind, scenes from a new project B pop up. You get them down, file them away, play with them later. By all means, get them down. I've forgotten whole encyclopedias of story ideas, thinking I'd surely remember them later!

A lot of writers, and some of them successful, do indeed start a story and just see where it takes them. They establish their characters and see where they go. No doubt, they waste some time doing that, although even scenes unused can be reused somewhere else, besides it all counts as good practice.

Be an organized writer, but organize it your way. Have fun, that's what it's all about. Certainly be willing to learn new ways, but don't agonize over it or try and force your round peg self into a square hole. Do what works.

Enjoy the journey, with or without a map!


  1. I've enjoyed reading your posts on writing-- outlines, Tarot, being organized but open to experimenting. I agree, no one can tell you how to write, but they can suggest ways to make it communicate better. It truly is an inspiration, an art and a skill all combined.

  2. I love that Stephen King writing book, RainCrow! It's one of my favorites. I know a lot of people hate doing outlines, but I actually enjoy it.

    Happy trails!

    bobbi c.