Monday, February 28, 2011

Outlining: No or No?

Here in about a week and a half I’ll meet with another local writer to compare notes.

All I know about what he’s writing is that it’s a fantasy novel. That’s about all he knows about what I’m writing as well. I sense, however, we’re taking different approaches.

He’s bringing an outline of a story he’s had in concept for a few years at least. I’m not sure how detailed the outline will be, but from what I hear, it’s got a fair amount of detail in it.

This compares to my approach to writing: I don’t outline. I may start off with a few vague notions for the overall direction of the book, and from time to time I may plan, in a very sketchy way, what’s going to happen in the next section of the book or at least the next writing session, but I tend more often than not to follow Wally’s Work Method, which is simply to point the coffee cup in any random direction and follow it.

I sense he’s got a more cohesive story put together.

But I’ve got 110,000 words of my story down on paper. It’s in rough form, but it’s on paper, rather than stuffed invisibly in the cracks of an outline.

I don’t say this to denigrate his method. As I mentioned, he’s probably got a more cohesive story in mind. Mine kind of wanders and meanders, and it’s likely that some of the 110,000 words I’ve got on paper are going to have to be deleted once the editing begins.

So as we talk and read, I’m going to take notes on the pros and cons of our story-building approaches. I’m sure the best methods will be found on the middle ground between the two.

I also wonder how I’d perform in a creative writing MFA program. My sister has a CR MFA, and is now going for a doctorate. I suspect they teach and preach a lot more outlining than I do.

Outlining may work for some. It doesn’t work for me. I prefer the Ur-writer’s approach. But I’m open to learning lessons.

One of the lessons I may learn is that my 110,000 words are an outline, just with a lot more meat on the bones. I see parts of the story that are sketchy and are going to need to be fleshed out through revisions and editing. I’m darn tootin’ well-pleased, however, to have the skeleton in place. And maybe that’s the most important thing, no matter the method used in skeleton–building.

 This is pretty much the extent of my outlining on the novel I'm working on right now.

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