To Outline or Not to Outline that is the Question? By Daniel Stubbings

Recently I been lucky enough to meet a number of writers at events and festivals, and I can honestly say I have had a different answer off each of them when I have asked about outlining. From it is essential you must plot your scenes or you lose sight of your goal, to just write and see where your pen takes you, to never outline it halts your flexibility and creativity.

As an aspiring writer I found myself torn. Should I listen to the published author who outlines every page, scene, and dialogue to the last inch or just write and see what I come up with like the other writer I respect.

I wrestled with this question for a number of weeks. Continuing to write my stories, character profiles, and story arches, crossing out whole pages or pressing the delete key more times than I could count. I even began to write a brief outline for where I knew I wanted to end up. However in the end I just torn it up and went what is the point my scenes just didn’t have the effect I was looking for.

I watched every videos I could find on outlining. The positives and negatives of each from debut authors, to international bestselling ones. Stephen King is one of my favourite all time authors, and if like me you have watched his writing tip videos, his big thing is never outline, and whatever you do don’t write ideas in a notebook. In his words that is where ideas go to die.

So there I was once again thinking what should I do. Should I write down every idea that pops into my head and reflect on them later or just do what Stephen says and let the good stuff stay and just write what comes.

Well after the last event I kind of came to a weird conclusion. I thought to myself both those authors got published. They didn’t use the same method but they got published. I mean lets be honest we all like our eggs done differently, our coffee brewed a certain way. So why cant it be like that when we are writing. I mean don’t get me wrong you need to respect the writing craft, but we all have our own ways of telling stories.

I am not ashamed to say I am nearly two years into writing a novel, and I just finished a second draft. I would say after I came to this conclusion, I have sort of combine the two, from the advice I have been given first hand, and the videos I have watched. I plan my big scenes, where I know this has to happen or my character is just pointless. However I also like to have some freedom, kind of like a road trip you pick a destination and plot your route but there is no harm in stopping off for a walk on the way to explore your own curiosity. As long as you come back to to the road you wanted to go down eventually. Getting lost is part of the fun, and you never know what you might find plus every great story needs interesting subplots.

Outlining  so what is my view?  I guess it is do what feels best for you. If you like to know every scene, and character interaction before you write then go for it grab a piece of A3 paper and get these scenes drawn out. However if your like me and need a combination of both to keep you moving forward then that is fine to. Or if your totally wild like Mr King and discover it as you go then who am I to judge. That is the beauty of storytelling no way is the wrong way, as long as the story means something to you.

So going back to the question at the top of the page. Outlining for me is like everything else in life, do what works for you and if you find you need to make a change then do so. You will hear arguments for and against, but I  finally realised something when I left the last event the authors words still ringing in my ears. Create your own method and stop second guessing yourself.