Woof. Woof. Howl.
Unlike Jeffe and James, I really, really should not write without having some sort of outline in place. Without one, I start typing merrily away at a contemporary erotic romance and wrap up slogging through the bowels of Mordor. No, really. I'm the queen of tangents to Neverwhere. I've also a tendency to over-correct, which leads to such detailed outlines the only things missing were the narrative trappings.
Neither extreme is a good idea.
I'm still working on the sweet-spot for how much detail I actually need while still allowing the story to organically grow and flow. For the latest WiP, something slightly more than a synopsis with barer bones is keeping me on track. Now, lest you think I'm wasting my time or deadening the art of creation by using an outline, here are my Top 5 Reasons to Kneel Before the Power of the Mighty Outline:
- They're Plot Maps: Yes, this is the most obvious reason, but I'mma mention it anyway. Let's say you want to go antiquing for your annual vacation. You intend to drive from Kissimmee to Bangor in a reasonable amount of time with minimal cost in a vehicle that can carry your crap. You figure out the highways, back roads, and rest stops. You know when to take a beltway versus plowing through downtown traffic. You mark the hotels, eateries, and swap-meets. Without the map, you'll end up making a left-turn in Oklahoma City, hitchhiking through the Great Basin, and getting arrested for manslaughter in Vancouver.
- They're Time-Savers: This may seem counter-intuitive, but investing three days upfront eliminates three months of deep rewrites at the end of the first draft. You won't have to worry about the original plot disintegrating around Chapter 6. The characters will never jump from action sequence to action sequence without reason or rationale. Repercussions and consequences will be properly escalated, keeping the pacing and tension tight. All that equals less time in revisions.
- They're Lojack for Characters: I write fantasy, which, by its nature, employs the infamous a Cast of Thousands. Logistics for who's on stage, who's being referenced, who's gone MIA, and who's eligible for an offing are much easier to track with an outline.
- They Cut The Crap: How many places, races, magical gewgaws, and laws-of-the-world are defined in the outline. If I can't keep my enemies straight through the rough strokes in the outline, the reader will never be able to do it in the book. So, consolidate. K.I.S.S. Also? I hate writing settings. It's my quirk. If introducing a new location isn't really necessary, why waste my time on it? An outline saves me from "ugh, another bedroom" syndrome.
- They Keep Me Sane: I'm all about reasonable expectations creating a healthy and happy life. An outline helps me manage my own expectations, to include how long it should take me to finish the first draft. Certain types of scenes are more time-consuming for me to write -- it's something I've learned about my process. These are not to be confused with the days I have to shout "just put words on the page" to slog through a scene when my brain is being recalcitrant. With an outline I know what key revelations, actions, and consequences have to happen before I can move to the next chapter. I can keep to a schedule. Should the day finally come that I have 3rd party imposed deadlines, I ought to be able to meet them without curling into the fetal position and sobbing.
image taken from: http://alchemyofwriting.blogspot.com/2012/07/four-short-walls-51-novel-outline.html