Writing conundrum: Leaving behind that outline without creating problems

So, I’m back to cranking out chapters of my serial this week, and this time, I hope to do it a little faster. The quicker I finish the serial, the easier it will be for me to focus on other projects, I think. Anyway, something is happening as I write that I think is worth mentioning, because I sincerely doubt that I’m the only writer to experience it.

In the beginning, there was an outline…

serial title imageIn order to secure my gig to write my current serial for Binah BeTween (“Glixman in a Fix”), I had to prepare an outline. Once that was approved (along with character profiles, the summary, and so on), I started writing. Generally, I write the serial episodes — I might have mentioned this before — in blocks of three, basing them on the outline. Because I’m working from an outline, with characters who are now well known to me, the writing goes relatively quickly. Then I revise the rough drafts once or twice and send them together in a batch to the editor.


We’re now more than a third of the way in, and more and more often, I find that I’m diverging from the outline. Most of those changes started off small. A lot of them involved timing — moving an event up, switching two scenes, that kind of thing. Sometimes I altered what was in the outline to make it more logical, other times, I wrote something more in tune with the psychology of the character. The tweaks also kept everything fresh as I was writing text based on an outline that was already several months old.

Uh…what did I say three weeks ago?

Now, all those changes are beginning to add up. I can no longer count on the outline when writing my three episodes this week. I’ve had this happen before, by the way, while writing a novel (which is still unpublished…). But it didn’t bother me so much with the novel, because if the changes I made didn’t suit me later during the writing process, I could always revert to the initial draft. However, in a serial that is running already (I’m usually about 4 to 8 weeks ahead of what’s in each week’s Binah BeTween), I can no longer change what the audience has already seen. Those readers will hold me accountable if I forget to include the new details I introduced between outlining and writing. I’m a little freaked out. At first, I was able to keep track of the changes in my head, but I’m afraid I’m a little past that stage now. I’m planning a couple bigger changes in the chapters I’m writing this week that will have significant consequences down the line. So today, I started writing them onto the outline: Next to “Episode 17, scene B” I wrote, “Moved this scene earlier.” In the margin next to “Episode 18, scene A” I scribbled about changing the setting and removing one character from the conversation. I may end up rewriting the entire second half of the outline in the end.

Have you ever diverged from the outline on a large-scale project? How did you keep track of the changes? Please comment!


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