As some of you know, I recently fell in love. With Scrivener. We met, married, and are enjoying a passionate honeymoon. Scrivener saved my writing life.
If you don't use it, and have no interest in using it, I suggest this: take a sheet of paper and scratch out some notes before you write. Create a mind map, a word web, anything.
I was never a fan of outlines. Until now. Fellow tweeps agree. Try K.M Weiland and Gabriela Pereira. Between their helpful tips and my dear Scriv, I'm in writing heaven.
Before you go on, let me make one thing clear. By outline, I don't mean grade-school roman numerals and capital letters. By outline, I mean a sketch, a map, a skeleton of your story; I mean the major plot points, the central message, the potential obstacles. (Remember: what happens in your head, stays in your head. Unless you open your mouth.)
Here are my 5 take-aways on the importance of outlining your story:
1. Outlines build a frame - you can always change plot structure and other details during the writing process, but beginning with that initial skeleton clears a path and marks a destination.
2. Stories need an outline - a natural outline will grow from your writing even if you don't begin with it. Why not start with it? It's your skeleton. Without it, your story will be an amorphous blob inching across a barren slab of pavement.
3. Outlines make you a better writer - fleshing out details like character traits, scenes, conflicts, obstacles, etc., beforehand prepare you for the deeper context that will organically unfold as you write.
4. Outlines save you time - ninety percent of my writer's block cleared up when I began taking outlining seriously. Just scratching out those 8 arcs gave me visible landmarks and stopping points.
5. Not everyone agrees - I could add five more reasons I think outlines make you a better writer, and you could find just as many that counter me.
I'm not your mom or your best friend. You won't offend me or hurt my feelings if you leave me a comment below that says I'm wrong. I welcome debate. I began my writing life on the other side of this argument - "outlining is for pretentious writers; I'm organic; let it flow". I've changed my mind.
I might change it again, but for now, creating an outline (loose or tight) gives my stories strength and frees my thinking to create.
What do you think?