To Outline or Not to Outline?

by RS on December 29, 2009

Let me put out there from the very start: I don’t outline. When I get a story idea, I write and see where it takes me.  I’m the type of writer that goes with the creative flow, but I admit that sometimes all the ideas that come rushing all at once need to be better organized. So I do see the benefit of sitting down and creating an outline. 

As school children, we’re taught early on to create outlines. I don’t know whether I missed something during that class or what, but even as an eight year-old, I never undertood why I had to outline a book report. Just write the damn thing and be done with it. So most likely I tuned out my teacher and I was composing my report in my head; shortly thereafter, I was ready to write the two or three pages.  The problem with that was since I wasn’t listening, I really never knew how to create a proper outline. Thus, I never got a perfect score because the teacher insisted that an outline be included within the book report.  The whole point being that she wanted to see the thought process step-by-step. My feelings were pretty much thought process be damned, just read the story and you’ll get the process! That attitude didn’t help my grade either.

I finally learned how to outline properly, and with the help of MS Word creating the skeleton is a cinch. My problem is that I tend to write whole sentences, not key phrases. Plus my outlines are long. Very long. Too long. So it sort of defeats the purpose of creating one when I can actually write the entire story. I’ve tried the key word or phrase route, and I usually end up scratching my head, trying to figure what in the world I’m trying to get at and why? The end-result is usually no outline and just write.

BUT. . .

That way of thinking almost got me in trouble last night. Julius is going through a major rewrite. I have several versions of chapters. I made the mistake of not hitting “Save As” for one version until it was too late and then I discovered that I rewrote a section that I might want to keep.  I somehow managed to salvage it, but I realized that since I’m making so many changes and adding new material to scenes that maybe I should outline.

Now remember, I’m not very good with outlining; I either add too much or too little. So what was my plan of attack to get organized? I’ll be honest, I didn’t have one at all. I just thought I would have to be more careful and just make sure that I hit “Save As” before I started the writing frenzy, and create another folder to file the new material.

BUT. . .

After I cleaned up my mess, I continued my research for my top 50 blogs and while I was reading one blog, I stumbled across this You tube video by Michael L. Martin Jr.:

Aftter viewing Michael’s charming review, and software geek that I am, I had to download Ywriter.  And you know what? It’s the perfect outlining tool for someone who likes to go with the flow, writes a lot, and needs help with organizing all these new random ideas. Now that I’m getting feedback for Julius it’s easier for me to organize the suggestions and changes.

If you’re an unorganized writer–like me–and you need help on how to make sense of all your jumbled ideas there is hope.  You can still write wildly, but in a more organized manner, which, hopefully, will:  a) make you a better writer and b) aid you in writing a better structured (and maybe compelling) story.

Off to my new-found favorite activity: outlining Julius with Ywriter’s help.

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