So I mentioned in yesterday's post that I lost a whole outline to my evil flash drive. But if you've followed this blog for a while, you'll know that in the past I've said I don't like outlining. So what changed my mind?
Well, I made a shocking realization - you don't have to follow your outline exactly!
It's a revelation, isn't it? Outlines aren't written in stone! They're flexible! Once you've been something in an outline, it doesn't have to stay there!
Seems like common sense, right? So why was this a revelation for me? Well, I'm the type of person who really likes checklists. There's something very satisfying about crossing something off, marking that I've finished it. I treated my outlines that way - I marked things off as I wrote them, so I was always following what I'd written in my outline exactly so I could mark the next thing off.
Once I realized that outlines aren't checklists, but rather roadmaps, they became my friend.
When you're on a roadtrip, you're allowed to take detours. You're allowed to stop at gas stations, stay at a middle-of-nowhere motel for the night, get off the freeway to check out an interesting antique mall. Your map (or GPS) is still there when you're ready for it, but you don't have to follow it every step of the way.
And sometimes, your map is wrong. Sometimes there's a roadblock, and you have to find another way. Trying to drive through the construction wouldn't exactly get you to your destination.
So here's my advice about outlining: try it. If you don't already outline, give it a shot. Now that I look at it as a roadmap rather than a checklist, I get so much more done. It helps to have something I'm moving toward, but I also know that if a detour comes up I have permission to take it!
*Note* - I don't organize my outlines by chapters, simply because I don't want to feel forced to squeeze things into a chapter that don't fit. Chapter endings write themselves, and when I try to write them myself they don't usually work out very well. I write my story and separate it into chapters later.
Now to try to recover the outline I lost in my memory...good news is it doesn't have to be exactly the same, because it's just a guideline anyway!
Do you outline? Why or why not?