It's the eternal debate on writer forums: To outline or not to outline. That is the question. Whether 'tis nobler to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous characters hijacking your story or...not. You get the picture.
I've written a lot of stuff. I've tried writing every way possible, from sitting down to write a whodunit without knowing whodunit or why, to carefully planning each scene down to drawing the location. I've come to the conclusion that I'm a planner. That's who I am in life.
I love a *to do* list. Love it. I like having a schedule and knowing what is going to happen each day, even if all I pencil in is : write or play on computer.
And I love maps.
When I go someplace new, I love detailed directions and a map is even better. I'm good with maps. The reason for this is I get lost. A lot. A whole lot. I've been lost all over the world: Greece, Egypt, Japan, France--pretty much anywhere I've been. I have no internal sense of direction. Put me indoors and turn me around and I'm completely lost. I could get lost going to my bathroom during the night. (Hey, things look different after dark, okay?) As a consequence, I've become great with maps and have developed quite an affection for them. My house is full of Mapscos and globes and atlases.
Which brings me back to outlining. I like to know where I'm going and how I'm going to get there. It reduces my stress and lets me focus on other things like the scenery and the interesting people along the route.
Outlining helps me see the structure of my book broken down into scenes, spot flaws, flesh out my characters and think through things in a logical fashion. If I change direction part way through, it's a lot easier to go back and rewrite bits of my outline.
Not everyone is an outline fan. There are many good writers that simply sit down and write. My friend Jeanne claims her entire book is in her head. She knows exactly what she wants to say and just channels the characters. Me? Not so much. Sure, the book is in my head, but I can't reliably find it. The outlining process helps me locate it and draw my fuzzy ideas into sharp focus.
Others claim that this spoils the trip. Once they've hashed out the details and events, they are no longer interested in the story. To me, an outline is simply a plan for the vacation. I'm still going to take the trip because the experience is worthwhile. Even if I know what I'm going to see, the trip can still surprise me with wondrous discoveries made along the way.
I hear that outlines are confining. For me, they are the opposite. They free me from worrying about structure and plot and let me obsess on the actual words instead.
So I outline. It makes sense to me. As far as I'm concerned, if Moses had an outline, the trip would have taken a week. Ten days tops.
How do you write? Pants it? Rough outline? Topographical map? I'm currently working on the Mother of All Outlines: 25,000 words and counting. If I ever reach the point where my outline is longer than my novel, I'll know it's time to turn back. Until then, I'll just keep plodding along, enjoying this leisurely ride.