I n the process of writing, I find outlines to be a vital part of staying focused and productive. Having a progressive set of notes allows me to move from scene to scene, guiding me through the mechanics of the story. It frees my mind so I can concentrate on the detail rather than the general events and turns of the story–which have now been recorded and placed in front of me as a guide.
…but outlining isn’t as simple as jotting down ideas in chronological order.
Well, I guess it can be, but I don’t think it would be very good, IMO. Outlining is the process of walking through the heart of your creation, breaking it down to the bare components to look at it from as many angles as possible. The final result should be a story that provides your readers with an experience they won’t soon forget.
When I decided to take the background notes being created and turn it into the Demoni Vankil, I tried to take a short cut and simply write the story without an outline. Result? Complete garbage. I had to write the whole story over again, twice. It had the twists and turns, but it didn’t have the feelings I wanted and what I believed the readers would expect. On top of that–Kathi hated it (always a bad sign).
So my wife and I sat out front our home, kicking back for a few days in our camping chairs and wrote out a detailed outline. Mapping the facts and events–walking through each part and talking our way through the events as the characters. What would they feel? What would they know and how would they know it? What should be revealed to the readers…and at what points? Then we walked through the outline as writers. Was there the proper balance of foreshadowing in the story? Do we insert a red herring…and if so, where?
This took several days of talking for 8-12 hours each session, working through the details to create the heart and structure of the story. Once completed, we worked back through the events again and asked questions from the point of view of a reader. Was the story believable? Did we talk to the reader…or at the reader? Did the experience guide the readers mind and heart in the direction of the final conclusion? Was there any chance of getting lost in the story?
In the end, we were both satisfied that the story had been mapped out sufficiently for me to write the story.
The key? Working together with someone you trust, someone with intelligence and with a passion for your story and the desire to see it succeed. I have a tremendous advantage in working with my brilliant wife. She loves me…and she loves this world bursting from my brain. She wants both to succeed…and with her help, every story gets better than the last.
Take the time to work out the details and create a powerful outline to follow in your writing process. It will simplify the next stage of your creation and keep you on track. It’s also a lot of fun.