I haven't published anything, but I have written several novels. An entire trilogy, in fact, plus the first drafts of two other books in a different series. I got through them all by outlining.
Now, maybe you don't know exactly what I mean by outlining. Writing down a few broad ideas about the story I want to write before I actually write it. Yep, that's outlining. But it can be so much more.
Dictionary.com defines Outlining as
- the essential features or main aspects of something under discussion
- decide a course of action as you go along, using your own initiative and perceptions rather than a predetermined plan or mechanical aids.
Are the two mutually exclusive? No.
Is one better than another? That all depends.
I have used both methods. For my longer works, such as the novels I mentioned above and elsewhere, I really want an outline. However, for those few short pieces I have written, even my 20,000 word novellas, I did not and do not often feel the need for an outline.
This has nothing to do with complexity. A short story of 5,000 words can be incredibly complex. For me, the choice to outline is based in the length of the story I am telling and how strong my need for direction due to that length is.
A benefit of writing without an outline is a feeling of organic-ness. The story comes out just as I imagine it, at the very time I am imagining it. It's quick, pure imagination and no second-guessing when it is first being written. However, once that first draft is complete, a read through may reveal some inconsistencies.
Outlining, meanwhile, gives you direction from the start. I see it as the map you are using for your cross country road trip. Your story is composed of the various destinations you plan to visit during your trip and your outline is the set of roads you have chosen by which to reach those destinations.
With an outline I do not fear the inconsistencies in the editing and rewriting process as I have already visited them. I have checked the map, checked the weather and road conditions and thought ahead. Though, any deviations from the marked path do make me question the choice of that deviation, whether it is good and warranted, or unnecessary and a false hope for some extra excitement in my writing experience that, at times, feels a dull repetition of that which is already known.
I know, many writers blogs have similar content. At some point, they all discuss character, plot, yada yada yada. The reason they all discuss it is because they all have their own feelings on the different aspects of their craft, as well as their own, unique approach to it.
Myself, I love outlining. It is as exciting for me to write the story from the outline as it is to write it without one. For me, that excitement comes not from finding out what happens, but how it happens.
Do you have a preference? Perhaps you are an outliner, or maybe you are a pantser. When it comes to the actual writing of your story, what is it that excites you the most?