Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Does writing with an outline kill the creative process?

I spend a lot of time planning a project before I begin the writing process. It starts with me going online to find inspiration. Once I have the seeds of an idea I will write a paragraph or two of raw thoughts. From there I'll write a list of characters. Next step is a detailed page long biography for each character. I sometimes skip that step. One thing I don't skip though is writing the outline.

The outline acts as the skeleton of the book. It is the path I will take. A lot of the time I will stray from that path because as I write the book the characters come alive and might go in a different direction or the plot might evolve and go in an exciting (or sometimes wrong) place than I intended.

An outline can be both a good thing to have and something that can kill the creative process in me. I've written without outlines in the past and have gone galloping off in random, strange directions and ended up with an end project over 1,000 pages long.

And I've written with incredibly detailed outlines colour coded for each different plot line and character.

I don't think plotting is one of my strengths. Even with an outline I still hit plot troubles with Deep Embrace. Every writer needs to do some planning (or world building as it is also called) before starting a project to a certain degree. You need to know what direction you want to go in. But sometimes I overdo it. I become so obsessed with replicating what I see in my head into words that I quite often will spend hours or even days slaving over the same sentence or paragraph.

And it drives me nuts and sucks the fun out of writing. Knowing what you want to write...seeing it in your one thing. Getting it down onto paper in actual words that make sense in sentences is another.

I did something unusual for me today. I started writing without an outline. I came up with an idea "A story from Hera's point of view!" and I left Hera appear in the location that she wanted and from there a whole story appeared before me. It didn't take me hours of planning. I just put my fingers to the keyboard and let Hera appear and start talking.

And god it was like someone took a massive weight off me. Since I didn't know what I wanted to write the words flowed from my fingertips and onto the screen because there was nothing standing in their way shouting "No! No! This is not the way I pictured this scene!"

Sometimes you just have to write. Forget about being perfect. Forget about getting that scene just right. Just let it happen. Let the story unfold like a beautiful flower and take shape on its own. You don't have to be in control of everything. Take a deep breath. Let go. And write. You might be surprised what you create.

My new short story is called When I Look Into Your Eyes.

No comments:

Post a Comment