Outlining: A Rocky Start

I always outline a story before I begin writing a new project. However, I tend to have a love-hate relationship with outlines and the process of outlining.

A Personal Outline

Ultimately, the outline exists to benefit the writer and the writing. I end up with an outline as part of a pre-writing organizational process. I love pre-writing, brainstorming, idea volleying. It’s fun to just plaster ideas on the page.

Then, basically, I have to take the chicken scratch notes from a full note pad or two and put them into some kind of order. That order becomes an outline and it will help keep me on track as I plow through a rough draft.

At least that’s how I see it. It seems that writers further along in their careers find other uses for outlines. They will actually sell a story based on an outline.

This gets to the other side of things when I have to…

Outline for Others

The hate part of my relationship with outlines comes from this very issue. Writing an outline for someone else is not a pleasant experience.

The problem is that my personal outline will make little sense to anyone else. It’s full of various reminders. It’s full of holes that I can fill later on when I’m actually writing. However, to others it will look like a slightly organized disaster.

It’s tough to write an outline for some else to understand because they need to grasp the story from the outline, but they can’t get the whole picture. If they did, then there would be no reason to actually write the whole piece. An outline must be interpreted.

And, this is what is so frustrating about outlining for someone else. They don’t always interpret the outline in the way you will. As the writer I will interpret the outline as I actually write the piece, so this is the most correct extrapolation.

Mostly I’ve dealt with this frustration as a student. I’m currently dealing with a similar situation.

But, I suppose it’s practice for the future. Hopefully I’ll be fortunate enough one day to sell a story based on an outline. When that day comes, I might change my feelings about outlining for others.

Until then, I’ll continue my love-hate battle. Back into the fray.


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