The world has always been full of seemingly contradictory information. While we as both humans and writers often organize this information into strict black-white-blue-red-green categories, often reality proves to be that muddy-grey color that happens when you mix all of your paints together. The importance is to find where the conflict starts and where it ends. As such, today’s post can be viewed as a contradiction to the last Argument, where we discussed the importance of just sitting down and writing without a guide or goal. Today is a day regarding the importance for having an outline.
If vomiting out words is the engine (also called “pantsing”), then the outline is the map. The outline shows all of your prep work completed: research, scene planning, plot structure, dramatic tones, etc. It seems like a lot, but that makes it surprisingly easier to write. You don’t have to worry about where you’re going or what came before because you already know that. The outline also serves as a guide for your subconscious. As you vomit out words, having your outline around will slowly guide your writing to the next step.
The outline is a physical representation of work flow and what needs to get done. The great thing about writing is that while it has to be read in sequential order (from page 1 to 100, page by page), it does not have to be written in sequential order. You can start with the end one day and start with the third chapter the next. The outline keeps track of it all. You’ll also find it easier to write since you’ve done all the heavy lifting before the writing process, allowing only your creative juices to flow.
The outline is a bit of prepatory work that a lot of people underrate. After all, if you’re sitting down to write, why bother doing something that isn’t really writing? Hence the negative stereotype of un-motivated students and dead-beat writers in coffee shops, ranting and raving to all who can hear about an outline of the next Great WorkTM, if only they could just figure out the last step of their outline. Keep in mind that those are not writers, fore they are not writing. A good writer knows when to do prep work and when to write, as well as how to balance the two together.
There’s no single way to write an outline, and a lot of it relies on personal preference. If you have a way you like to write an outline, or if you think I’m wrong, click Leave a comment (just below the title of the post!) and tell me all about it.
If you want to know how to write an outline, I present a post from a blog of one of my former professors, Scott Myers. He’s a screenwriter and teacher, as well as all around good dude. Very passionate, very intelligent, and holds classes for those interested.