I'm also not a very good planner. I'm more of a visualizer. Yes, I make a syllabus for the entire year, and I try to stick to it. I really do. But past students will attest to days when I've walked into class and said, "I got a great idea for a workshop on the way to campus today, so let's try it out." And if something's not working in class-- the students aren't grasping a concept, a workshop isn't producing the desired effect -- or, if the class gets off on an exciting tangent and I don't want to quash the energy of the discussion, then I'm ok with changing the plan, even if it's on the fly.
Ditto for writing.
Knowing all this, then, you can speculate how I might feel about outlines. It's not that I'm not a fan -- in certain writing situations, I find them very helpful -- but I'm not very good at them when it comes to my own writing. I would never begin my novel-writing process with an outline, for example (some basic notes, yes). And I did no outlining whatsoever with my first two novels. Nor my third. My co-author, Sarah, did the outline. She's very outline-friendly.
And I have to say, the WILS outline turned out to be rather useful. We (ok, she) outlined after we'd already had a draft of the novel, and for me that's when an outline is most helpful. It was a way for us to trace our steps and see what the path looked like, a map. If the streets didn't meet, were full of potholes, etc., then we had an idea of how to go back and fix it -- add or delete scenes, develop characters, raise the stakes, etc. (and heads up: I have a feeling my next blog post will be about what "raising the stakes" means). And considering that we patchworked this novel together, we very much needed that roadmap. The outline also helped us decide who would tackle which sections needing the most work.
Outlines came into the picture yet again during my screenwriting classes last month -- story and character outlines were essential before writing a word of the screenplay. And yet, I could see their applications to my novel-in-progress, too.
So here I am, writing solo again, and I find my draft stuck in the mud. And I realized that I was going to have to make an outline.
And so I did, with the help of a writing software program called Scrivener. Using the very basic template, I broke the entire draft down into sections (mostly by chapter, although some chapters got split into several scenes) and tried to capture the gist of that section. And lo and behold, the map started to come together, and I started to get an idea as to why it was so muddy.
It goes without saying that every writer has a different process. For some, the outline comes before all else. For others, it is the very final step. For others still, it plays no role whatsoever. I don't think I'll ever be an uber-organizer (heck, I'd just like to clear my coffee table!), but I'm coming to appreciate the outline more and more, and finding it a helpful tool in my process. In the meantime, I'd love to know how (or if) it works for you, or doesn't.