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.

Recalibrating

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. Continue reading

To outline, or not to outline, that is the question.

I just viewed this interesting slideshow on Flavorwire containing outlines by famous writers. I use “outlines” in a broad sense–several were more like graphic organizers than true outlines. I had a weird reaction to the piece.

Usually, I start stories with clusters or notes, not with actual outlines, unless we’re talking something big–a serial (even a mini-serial) or a novel. Sometimes, I cross out and draw arrows to rearrange the elements so often, I end up rewriting the whole thing a few times because I no longer can read my own diagrams.

In most cases, these scribbles remain private. However, I happen to be working on a project right now where the publisher requested an outline first, but that’s never really happened before.

Several of my friends tell me they just start writing. They skip the outlines, diagrams, and charts and words just start to flow.

This slideshow bizarrely made some part of my brain do a superiority dance. “I am in good company with other prewriters,” it seems to say. “Just look at me with the likes of Henry Miller, William Faulkner, Sylvia Plath and Joseph Heller!”

This is utter nonsense. Plenty of writers do just fine without scribbling diagrams, outlines, or the like first, particularly if they are writing short form.

Are you an outliner? Why or why not?