Two Learning Points

There were two blog posts I read today, and they both got me thinking.  First off, since I’m seriously becoming a fan, sue me, is Albert Berg’s posting for today, “Eat Your Lima Beans: The Importance of Becoming the Writer You Aren’t“. 

Now, I get that he isn’t talking strictly about the rule of outlining.  I get that he was talking about all the hard parts of writing and how they are just as important as the easy  ones.  But I am going to delve into the outlining.

Story Outline Template

I do not outline.  Let me repeat.  I do not outline.  I am so lucky, underscore that a few more times, that I did not have to do many papers during my years of school.  My mother worked with me, and I do remember I did a few outlines, but I do not do outlines. 

I’m a ‘panster’.  A person that writes by the seat of her pants.  I know, not pretty.  Probably why I have yet to plot anything.  However, I like the non conformity of just writing.  I also have no set plan on how a story is going to go most of the time.  I kind of let each situation take me there.  Yes, I do have a general sense of the plot with some things.  I like to see where each situation takes me, and if I have a hatful of situations that can’t all go into the book, well then, that’s okay.  A few of them will and they will combine to create something wonderful.  I hope.

Call me a free spirit.  Okay, uh, don’t really call me that, but when it comes to writing, I go with the flow.  I don’t stress too much over what the outcome is going to be.  Yes, heroine does end up with hero, that is pretty much a given, but if instead of her getting pregnant like I had planned, she ends up confessing her love before that point and they get married, bla bla bla, then okay.  Just so long as I actually end.

Pardon the rambling, it’s late and I have not thought all day about this post.

Now onto the second part of what I was mulling over.  A post that Nathan Bransford posted on the 17th, ‘Page Critique Thursday: My Thoughts, and More About Trusting Yourself’. 
Mostly the post had nothing to do with this statement I took out of it, but I thought the statement apropos.  “One of the most important skills every writer must master is also one of the most elusive: trusting their own talent.”

Sometimes as writers, we get caught up in all the rules, and we read other writers thinking, well they made it, obviously we must follow their lead and do what they do.  Not so.  Sometimes trusting yourself and admitting that you actually know what you are doing is very hard.  You are a writer.  You have had people compliment you on what you do.  Believe it.

So says me, who, well, has insecurity issues on a daily basis.  Seriously I should be posting this everywhere around my house as a reminder that I do have something.  Otherwise a publishing company wouldn’t have said they want to publish one of my books.  (before you jump up and down, I ended up not being able to do it due to finances)  Trust in yourself as a writer.

Now how does that coincide with Albert Berg’s post?  Well, not always will one method work for you.  Or me as the case may be.  Now that doesn’t mean I don’t have some general outline, but for me, I haven’t found it to work to really ‘outline’ something.  I need the ability to float an idea out there but not stick to it whole heartedly.  I need flexibility to create.  So I am trusting myself.

Each writer is different, and I think it wise to look at a lot of options and at some point, try them, because you never know when it will help you out.  Be open to ideas and concepts.

But, trust in yourself.

(now that being said, I kind of like the top picture on outlining… So I might give it a shot, even just as an exercise.  See, even I can change my ways.)

Writing on



9 thoughts on “Two Learning Points

  1. Outlines are a tricky thing. Too specific and you end up talking yourself into a hole that might wish you hadn’t. Too vague and it does you no good at all. Are they strictly necessary? Nah. If you’ve got a good grasp of how a story should go (that there HAS to be a conflict, that it HAS to be solved, that the closer it follows the Hero’s Journey the better it will be), then an outline is just a formality.

    Having said that, it is incredibly frustrating to read the writing of someone who decided they didn’t need an outline, or any sort of formal story structure for that matter when they desperately did. Take, for instance, the plot of Twilight, book versus film. In the film, evil vamps show up, what, ten minutes into the film? Not by name or face, but just enough murder and screaming to let you know there’s some sort of conflict on the horizon.

    In the book, Meyer got three quarters of the way through the novel before she realized her book was about long, unexciting conversations between two teenagers who barely know each other and whose biggest conflict is who can get to know the other one better and faster. Maybe if one of them was Hitler, or Socrates, or Napoleon, or Queen Victoria, this would have been interesting. At that point, she very suddenly threw in a mess of evil vampires, at which point I questioned why I had read the entire first half of the novel.

    My friend Tiffany is a writer (the only one I know who has ever finished an entire novel, even if she wrote it when she was 16 and now refuses to acknowledge it), and she plots like crazy. She writes out everything that she wants to happen on post-its, and attaches them to her sliding glass door. From there, she sits back and looks at them, rearranges them, tosses some out, adds some new, and generally plans. And it’s not a stagnant process. It constantly changes, even as she’s writing. Sometimes she’ll realize that something just doesn’t make sense, and toss out an entire chunk of writing. Or she’ll realize something ought to happen, write it out, and then add it to the post-it wall later.

    I like her style of outlining a lot, because I feel it’s a very physical way to express how our brains plot things out. Bits and pieces that we know SHOULD happen, the stuff we WANT to happen, and the other junk that NEEDS to happen so that we can get back to the fun stuff. Stories are a living thing inside of us (at least until we finish writing them), and the more complex they are, the harder they writhe and wiggle and need to be expressed outwardly in some way, even if that way is only on a post-it note.

    There are hundreds of ways to outline and plot, and that could mean that out there somewhere is the perfect one for you. Maybe not, but it never hurts to try! I’m still looking, personally. :]

  2. You wrote that you didn’t publish your book due to financial reasons. Sounds like a subsidy press was involved. (Traditional publishers, large, small, or digital don’t charge a fee.) If you’re interested in self-publishing, I recommend Amazon’s CreateSpace, which a friend of mine has used. There are NO upfront costs required unless you choose Expanded Distribution for $39 or one of their editing and cover packages. CS and Lightning Source are the only two printing services I’d consider.

    • At the time I didn’t realize it was a self publishing publisher. And due to the fact that it is an unillustrated children’s book, I probably won’t be able to self publish, but thank you so much for the information. I do have other minor fiction works in the process and this may come in quite handy.
      Thank you as well for reading.

  3. I go back and forth between pantsing it and having an outline. I find that I need to have an organized way of keeping notes on the thoughts that pop up when I’m writing. Sometimes, I’ll be going along and realize that character QC simply must have had x experience in his past. I need to jot that down in a character profile so that I can either put it in when I rewrite or work it into the story later on. If I try to go back and add the detail in then and there, I’m likely to get sidetracked. So, a flexible outline style works for me.

    • Wow, I like your flexible outline. I do try to create a character profile, but sometimes doing the history doesn’t always come to me until much later. Being able to add it in is nice. I’ll have to keep some of this in mind. 🙂 Someone told me, and you can actually read it in the previous comment by Mimi, about the ‘post it’ outline. I think that might be somethign handy too.

      Thanks for reading and voicing your comments. Any ideas is greatly appreciated. 🙂

  4. Garth Nix said something to the effect of “The beauty of an outline is deviating from it”. I write an outline at the outset just to organize my thoughts and then halfway through the story I ditch the outline and just write whatever happens.

    The thing about an outline is that you can go back to it later and change whatever you like but it gives you some organization which, with a larger piece, is absolutely necessary. Without one, I’d quickly lose sight of who is doing what where and what’s happening and my mind would turn to soup.

    The thing about outlining is that you do it however works for you, you don’t need to do the formal outline you learned in high school, you can do it however you like so long as you put down rough sketches of the direction of where you want to go and approximately when (it helps HUGELY with pacing).

    • I like your opinions of the whole outline thing, as well as Garth Nix’s. That’s very good. I think my biggest problem is the staying organized. I do tend to have a rough sketch of characters and who they are, but plotlines are usually stuck in my head. Of course they are very moveable in my brain, but easily forgotten at times.

      Thanks for reading!

  5. Pingback: Organization & Outlines « E. Harvey

  6. Pingback: Do I Gotta?: Outlines By Elizabeth Harvey

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