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To Outline Or Not To Outline? by Kashmira Sheth

Keeping Corner by Kashmira Sheth

Some writers outline their stories while some don’t. I have listened in awe to some authors talk about how they go about creating a framework for their novel. They know their characters, plot, climax and ending of their stories before they actually start writing their first chapter. For them, making an outline works well because they can see how their characters are going to behave in each situation and how they will come out in the end. With that concrete concept of the story, making chapter outlines works well. It speeds up the writing process and avoids a lot of work that comes with creating the story as you go, including trimming scenes when your characters end up in the wrong places.

Even though this process of outlining seems very scientific and has fewer pitfalls, it may not work for every writer. I know it doesn’t work for me. For writers like me, creating an outline is difficult and time consuming in the first place. Even if we manage to outline our story we might find it impossible to stay within those scenes and chapter summaries. If we waiver from those scenes, we might have to abandon the rest of the outline because changes have a snowballing effect, and the rest of the outline may no longer make sense.

Writers like me do not have chapter outlines or summaries on 5×7 index cards to guide us through our way. As we write, we make wrong turns and put in scenes that add nothing to the plot or character development. In that case, we may have to trim many scenes or even a few chapters and start again. Without a clear idea of where the story is going we might find ourselves in a place we don’t want to be or simply have no clue what happens next. We get stumped. Sometimes, it is frustrating to be in that place. At other times our creativity is challenged and we may find appropriate and even amazing paths out of our predicament.

In this way, once we start writing, we may find that our characters have taken us to unexpected and exciting places. The characters’ journey may bring surprises to us. These are gifts that they didn’t know existed.   If we try to adhere strictly to the outline we might find our creativity stifled because we can’t explore a new situation when it pops up unexpectedly. We might feel we have to mould our characters to behave the way we thought they would before we started writing. Ultimately, we might lose interest in our story and abandon it.

If you are a writer who starts with an idea then nurtures and grows that idea as you write, you may not want to make an outline. On the other hand, you may love the outlining process, and feel that it keeps you in control from the beginning and your goal in sight at all times. There is no one right or wrong way to write.


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Writing Teen Novels

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