I never used to outline. For the longest time, I got by writing without outlines. Writing without them came naturally to me. When I started using them, I felt trapped, bogged down, and nothing like myself. My whole process felt constrained. I suffocated. In my writing workshops, I was taught not to write without outlines. My professors frowned or scowled when I shunned the thought of planning. “You can’t write like that,” they said. “You’re setting yourself up for failure.” Well, they were half-right.
Outlining doesn’t work for me. For the longest time, I tried to fit in with other writers who swear by it, but the process felt forced. I was sure that everyone knew I was faking. My productivity ground to a halt. I put so much pressure on myself to do what everyone else was doing, instead of focusing on what worked for me. Since outlining wasn’t working, I must have been doing it wrong. I spent ages researching different outlining methods, trying to find out what might work for me. Heck, I even wrote some blog posts about my findings.
None of it worked for me. I stalled out. I stopped writing. I plunged into the depths of despair and had a hard time getting back up. Then, I read a post by author Ksenia Anske.
This post changed my life.
Like me, Ksenia prefers to write without an outline. Like me, she also tried outlining without much luck. It didn’t work for her, either. In the post (READ IT!), she says that if outlining works for you, keep at it. If it doesn’t, there’s no reason you need to stick to it. Do whatever works for you. In Ksenia’s words:
Don’t outline. Ditch it. Just write. If you’ve never tried it, try. It’s an amazing discovery process. You will think thoughts you didn’t know you had. Don’t be afraid to discard them, to kill them, abandon them on the road. Wait for more thoughts to come. Wait for the right thoughts to come. Deep in your gut you will know them. Recognize them. Your problem is, it’s taking a while. At first. Because you’re a beginning writer. If you are, that is. Like me. It will speed up. With time. Make sure you allot yourself this time. Quiet time. Time when you’re not distracted, bored out of your mind. Get your mind still. Make it watch your thoughts. Get lost in them. Write.
That was her bottom line, and like I said, it changed my life. Since reading that post, I ditched the outline and have never looked back. I tried outlining MUD EYES and got stuck (had to put it away). I tried it for half of BLOOD AND WATER, but I’ve learned my lesson. I’m moving on.
It doesn’t matter how you write as long as it gets written.
If outlining doesn’t work for you, throw the outline away. I won’t tell anyone, I promise.
How do you feel about outlining? Are you a plotter, a pantser, or a hybrid of the two?
How do you plot your novels, if at all? Writer @brianawrites shares why it’s okay to ditch outlines. (Click to tweet)