Do you use outlines? Do they work?

United States
September 7, 2008 12:48pm CST
I almost never outline any of the stories I think up, and I think that might be a problem. I like getting the character development down, get everyone's interests and such set, and maybe writing a short synopsis of a few chapters, but I can hardly ever get myself to outline the entire story. Does anyone else outline their ideas? Does it work out for you? I get the feeling that having an outline will help keep you on track in writing, but do you find it to be helpful or a burden?
3 people like this
9 responses
@sharra1 (6341)
• Australia
8 Sep 08
I have tried to use outlines but I have never been very good at them. If they work then they give you a framework to build your story in and depending on the type of story they would help you work out your plot etc. I have never managed to use them but I do jot down notes and ideas and try and build a bit of structure out of that.
• United States
9 Sep 08
I do the same thing; using notes and ideas jotted down work a lot better for me. I can't seem to find the right way of using outlines, and having notes without any formal pattern to them means I can use them in the story whenever it seems right. With an outline I feel compelled to use them at the moment I have them written in for.
@cripfemme (7713)
• United States
8 Sep 08
I sometimes use outlines and they often are helpful to get a story going. However, the trick is not to be married to your outline. Let the story and the characters take you where they want to go just like you should be fairly attracted to your first draft. You should not be, as I said, overly obsessed with your outline. Let the muse speak.
• United States
9 Sep 08
That is pretty much the reason I can't use outlines too well; I get trapped by them and feel forced to use whatever I wrote in them in the story, even if it doesn't work. I feel much better with rough notes and ideas scattered in a notebook, even if it is a bit more disorganized, heh...
@likaes (496)
• Singapore
8 Sep 08
Good stories evolve as their characters evolve. It might be helpful to flesh out the characters at first so you don't have characters that start out hollow. But as the story moves along, you must be prepared to change what you wrote down before. An outline can only help you for so long, and then it becomes too restrictive.
• United States
9 Sep 08
That's how I feel often as well... And sometimes it feels that if it's written down in the outline, it has to be used in the story, even if it doesn't work. I prefer using notes in a notebook, maybe with colored tabs to help me remember where ideas are, and let them come to mind when they feel like being included in the story. I prefer the free-flowing way of writing much more than the outline way.
• United States
8 Sep 08
In some ways a little of both, I like to create an outline because it allows for a quick breakdown of events in the story, but on the other hand, I find that when I sit down to create an outline, often I don't know alot about what happens in some parts of the story, I'm still waiting for the muse to strike. Most my outlines have a lot of holes in them at first that I have to go and fill in later. i do think it helps keep you on track though, because sometimes when you start writing, you get off in the left lane and can lose some key parts of your story, the outline helps keep you on the right road so to speak.
• United States
9 Sep 08
Rough outlines seem to work okay for me sometimes. Sometimes, however, I find myself filling in details that just don't work, but I feel forced to put them in because I put them in the outline.. if that makes sense. But it does seem like an outline would help keep things progressing forward in the right direction.
@magojordan (3254)
• Philippines
8 Sep 08
Yes I do and they help a lot with the things I do. Outlines get things organized and of course if you're organized you could get things accomplished better
@suspenseful (40314)
• Canada
8 Sep 08
I do the beginning and the ending, and then figure out the middle from there. I then decide who the character is going to meet, how long it takes to get from point A to point B, and what happens then. But mostly it is the characters who decide what is going to go on and I decide on a time frame at the end. For instance, if at the beginning, the hero of the story is in Nome, Alaska and it is 1890, and at the end he is at the San Francisco earthquake, then I have to fill in the middle with what happens during the period. It is not exactly an outline, and sometimes if you revise the novel, something happens at the end that determines what started at the beginning or you will find that one of your minor characters gains in importance. I tried a strict outline and it did not work, but a sort of outline does help.
• United States
9 Sep 08
That sounds like a good idea; while it makes clear the beginning and endpoints it also seems to give you a lot of room to develop things and let the story progress as it wants to without forcing it to follow a certain pattern. Pretty cool.
@showpup (232)
• United States
7 Sep 08
I ALWAYS use outlines. I even have different drafts for them! I write the rough draft outline just to get the thoughts out of my head and onto paper. Then I reorganize that outline into the order I think it should go in. After that is done, I add in bulleted lists of what I want to be sure and include in each of those areas. Again, I organize and number those. If I can picture my character, I make little short bios for each. Even if details of their bios don't make it to the book, it really helps my mindset along in developing their character. Rewrite my draft so I can actually read it... Once all this is done, I can crank out a book or report or whatever I'm writing in no time at all. Without an outline, I am totally lost and I'm afraid with my self-diagnosed ADD ways, so would my readers be!
• United States
7 Sep 08
Haha, I think I should take a leaf out of your book. I frequently find myself missing things that should have been put in and adding in things that don't make sense, but I can never get up the energy to get an outline going. You seem to have a really good system developed for getting your ideas out. I know I put a lot of effort into getting my characters fleshed out with all their little pet peeves and favorite things, it helps define the character and how they act in the story, even if it doesn't get used, like you said.
7 Sep 08
I don't...I can't use an outline. I feel that they are far too restricting. I like to just sit down with a blank page and let the story and characters develop themselves. I will occasionally make out character or world profiles but I rarely stick to them. I like to have the freedom to let things change as needed.
• United States
7 Sep 08
Sometimes I find myself doing the same thing. I like the feeling of having the story just flow on its own, without being limited by anything. It's a really good feeling to let the story develop like it wants to and not force it to become what you want it to be.
• China
8 Sep 08
I just like to play the games, it dosent need net.