Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Do you outline?

I don’t know how people write long pieces without outlining. If you are one of those people, let me know how you write a novel, novella, short story, etc without using one. Do you wing it? How does that work?

Let’s define outlining for those not in the know:

An outline is a (sort of) map that a writer uses to get from scene to scene.

In my YA zombie novel, I used a reverse chapter outline. I wrote a quick blurb about what I wanted the last scene to be and worked backwards from there, writing a blurb about each chapter based on a list of potential scenes I had brainstormed. That list was really funny because I asked my students, at the time, what weapons could be created from various places/objects around the school. Being an art teacher in an art room, you better believe the large, industrial cutting board was a fan favorite (and, yes, I do believe I worked that into the novel. That and the metal yardsticks, everyone, including other teachers, frequently used as a fencing swords.)

When using the reverse method, I found it incredibly helpful to think about where I wanted to end up. Being systematic (to a fault, sometimes), I worked from the beginning forward. One could easily jump around and write scenes of interest, which could cure writer’s block if there was a scene that was more exciting to write than others.

With the zombie book, I used a Word document to make the outline. In my current work, the mermaid book, I am using a notebook. I’m thinking I like the Word doc better. I keep changing things and I can’t read my writing!

I though it would be fun to include a photo of J.K. Rowling’s outline for HARRY POTTER AND THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX: 

Image found on slashfilm.com

Do let me know your method of laying out a lengthy piece. It's always interesting to hear how others work...

Happy writing...
Your Favorite Mermaid