Outlines, the topic of the day

I’ve heard many people refer to an outline as the foundation of a house, but after reading Writing Cycle and Joyously Prolific, I think a better analogy would be a MAP–a map of events or plot turns.  (Yes, I like that much better.  A map just sounds more exciting and colorful than a stationary dais.  A map suggest action, movement, change and even the possibility of side roads.)

SSE until we hit Fiji.  NNE to the England, then due West toward home.

I have an affinity for short stories, but even I use a rudimentary outline without exception.  This comes from experience and too many abandoned stories, floundering on my memory stick, that don’t have satisfactory endings.  I can’t imagine writing a novel without one.  That’s just crazzzzy.

Many of you may say that you don’t like outlines, and that’s okay.  Go on with your bad self!  Many of you say that you want the story to surprise you.  You’ll be surprised alright, when you’re bailing water and can’t find your way to The End.

Me?  I don’t set sail without a map that takes me all the way to the end.


8 thoughts on “Outlines, the topic of the day

  1. I used an outline, scene-by-scene, for my recently published novel and I was still surprised, nay, astonished, by the book I wrote.

    The outline was badly lacerated by chapter four, when the book’s own voice came clear; but, if I hadn’t had the original map, I never would have reached the plateau, where I found another map inscribed in the stone 🙂

    • I’ve had that happen too. Chapter’s 3 and 4 always seem to make or break. Then there’s always the possibility of coming up with a better idea or a better ending.

  2. Map, seems interesting, maybe even a flow chart, but how do you “nest” things on a map? I guess it’s possible but an outline seems to be the easiest way. IMHO

    • ‘Nest’ things is a new term for me. Feel free to enlighten me. Basically, what I do is get a poster board and draw an outline of the plot. Black felt-tip for the main twists and turns, then I pencil in extras, dramatic revelations and character basics. Any bits of research are attached by tacks–and that’s just for a short story. I’d need a bigger wall for a novel. Sounds hard, but it ain’t. It’s kind of fun. Preliminary work saves on re-writes.

  3. I don’t know why, but the end of the story or novel is the hardest one for me to deal with. A “map” makes sure that I get there without getting lost on the way. What it doesn’t do is dictate what the end should be. And I really wish it would. My books don’t work their way to just one possible ending. They’re character-based, and by the final chapter, the main characters have decisions to make, which means there’s more than one possible ending. So an outline can take me only so far. The rest is up to me and the characters.

    • I’m action bases, myself, which makes an outline all the more important. My main concern with characters is to keep their reactions logical. But I can see your point, too.

  4. I’ve never written an outline, but then I’ve never really done any serious writing. It sounds like it makes sense, I just usually can’t come up with any kind of story or blog post until I sit down and just start tapping away on the keyboard.

    • Your blog is great, but it’s mostly ‘theme’ based, as most blogs are, including mine. In this kind of writing, with one central idea, a plot is not necessary. When you do get around to writing a plot, the rest of us better look out, because it will be stiff competition.

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