Thursday, December 23, 2010

Lessons learned in 2010: Outlines

I thought a few days ago that I should do a wrap up post for 2010. Wrap up my year in a nice neat bow. But, honestly, after thinking about the topic for a few moments, it seemed boring. And if I was bored by the idea, then what would you all think? I lived this stuff, for crying out loud. I should be the most interested.

Instead, I thought I'd do a series of posts on lessons learned this year. Things that I didn't know, or didn't realize, as 2010 started. These are done in no particular order and first up is outlining.

In 2010, I learned that I was an outliner. Up until this year I'd been a pantser. I was convinced that's what I was. Sit in front of a keyboard with a germ of an idea and start. See where it goes and enjoy the ride. Then I had the idea for what became Chasing Filthy Lucre. It was just a little idea about data addiction and plugging directly into some sort of feed. No need for a keyboard. Just a direct line into the brain. I wrote a couple of things all centered around that technology. Then one idea stuck. I went with it for a while, liked where it was going. Then I stopped. The story ran out of steam, but some of the ideas in the story were keepers. That's when I decided to I needed to see if I could plot something out.

The outline I ended up with is far from what you'd see in an English class. It just four sections with four sentences in each section. Just enough info to tell me where I'm going. After that was written all I had to so was write the story from one of those sentences to the next. I still had the excitement of pantsing the story, but having that little outline was tremendous. Knowing where the story was eventually headed freed me up to let my mind wander. Weird, I know, but I knew that even if I went off the rails a bit all I had to do was somehow get my characters to the next part of the outline and we'd be in good shape.

Parts of me kick myself for not getting serious about outlining earlier. This let me finish something longer than a short story for the first time. I know they aren't for everyone, and for a long time I thought they weren't for me. And, if we are talking about the ultra detailed versions lots of writers use, then they still aren't. But, in my own way, in 2010 I learned I'm an outliner. I just wish someone would have sat me down and told me that this is all so much easier if you just have a rudimentary road map to get you to the end.

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