to outline or not to outline

For all my longer works, for example novels, I write chapter outlines so I can have the pleasure of departing from them later on. –Garth Nix

I’ve always outlined. But Dragon Slayers has been different and rather interesting. Explain why.

I’ve almost always have an outline. It’s usually just a list of events, such as:

  • Shad drops Dr. Przemyal off with the ship. The doctor promises him a ship.
  • The people gather for the news report of Dr. Przeymyar’s rescue. They  hear him lie and Shad storms out.
  • Shad steals the ship with the help of the guy who he talked to earlier.
  • The captain finds out about the ship
  • Now each point is usually a whole chapter by itself, but sometimes not. I do this to keep focus so I don’t add unnecessary scenes. Later on, when I tried doing a serious multi-character work, I had the outlines so I could go from one person to another to another and still keep each of their stories moving.

    However, in Dragon Slayers I didn’t outline. I’m not quite sure why. I guess I figured that it’s only going to be short (is about 30 pages right now), so I can keep track of everything in my head. I also never got around to writing it down, because I figured that what have to do to get from point A to point D would be difficult to figure out.

    So I didn’t outline and strangely, it worked out rather well. Actually, a surprising thing happened. I thought I had the ending figured out. Then, I started thinking about it because I was ready to write it and I forgot what my ending was exactly. (I knew the major points but the little details, I wasn’t sure.) So when I got around to writing it, I changed something that I never expected to change and I actually think it makes it so much better.

    So now I don’t know what to do. On one hand, outline worked fine with Shad and Hope and all my other stories. It let me see what actually had to be done and by when. However, I’m wondering if outline hinders me slightly too. Before, whenever I couldn’t decide what to write next, I always went back to the outline and wrote from that. When I didn’t do that with Dragon Slayers, it came out with a larger surprise, I think.

    I’ve said before that one of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned was to let the characters talk and act as they please. I think that, although outlines might not be bad, I need to learn the listen to the flow of the story too. I should ask myself, NOw that I know this character, does this action make sense? Does this scene make sense? And I shouldn’t worry about whether or not it flows with the story because maybe, just maybe, the story is different than I think.

    It will certainly  be an interesting experiment.

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    About Abigail

    I'm an elementary education major at a college in the Midwest. I might graduate as early as December '13 but more likely May '14. I write when I can. I also knit on occasion, draw, do homework and contradict teachers to make people think. :)

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