I’m a big fan of outlines. I think they keep you from getting derailed and help you write faster. But outlines change. Sometimes a lot. And it’s tempting to try and stick to your outlines because you put so much work into them.
Enter the Outline-As-You-Go. ^_^
I started doing this by accident about 3 years ago. I was in the middle of a scene, but the next one was burning a hole through my hippocampus. I didn’t want to mess up the scene I was on by rushing through it, and I didn’t want to skip it, so I outlined the next chapter, about a paragraph, right below the scene I was working on. I got so carried away and ended up outlining a few more chapters as well. It worked almost instantly. My brain calmed down, and it helped keep me on track AND helped me write faster.
1-It takes the pressure off. You don’t have to have everything figured out before you start. Though if you do, that is awesome! It happened to me once.
2-It keeps you from going off on crazy side-trails that don’t need to be gone off of.
So what it exactly?
It can be as brief or as detailed as you see fit, but the point is to outline at least 3 to 5 chapters ahead of where you are. This is especially helpful if you don’t know where the story is going yet. Something in the earlier chapters may inspire you, and you can outline it out (right under the last paragraph if you wish!) and you don’t have to worry about forgetting anything in your burst of inspiration.
I love this method because it marries the planning aspect with the fly by seat of your pants approach. As the saying goes, why not have your cake and eat it too?! It’s perfect for me because I’m scattered brained at the same time I’m disgustingly organized. (Seriously, you should see my condo. I’m really really absentminded and ditsy sometimes, but there is nothing on the floor. I even pick the lint off the floor.) And this is also a great way to introduce outlining for people who are afraid of it.
Before I start a story, I try pen at least 2 or 3 chapters. If I can do more, GREAT! and I do. But if I can’t. No matter. I’m usually in pretty good hands with my characters. I let them take over, and they can always tell me where to go from there if my mind goes blank. They love telling me what to do! ^_^
If you’re not an outliner, I encourage you to try this approach with your next project. Trying new things is always fun. ^_^