On Outlining

I need to start my novel over because there is too much going on, so I need to  focus and pare down. I have decided to start by making an outline.

I rarely outline.  Sometimes in high school, a teacher would explain outlining and brainstorming, but that stuff was never collected, never graded and so I never did either. I did pretty good on my essays, though, so I never felt the need to do an outline. In college, one teacher insisted on collecting and grading outlines. (I told her we weren’t kids and it wasn’t necessary. She wasn’t convinced.)

Point is, I don’t outline unless I have to. So I am not even sure how to go about outlining an essay, let alone a novel. I’ve only ever tried to outline a novel twice in the past as an experiment. Both times, it was a dismissal failure. I would lose interest in the work; I would already know everything that was going to happen and be bored. I never wrote more than the first few scenes. I concluded then that outlining isn’t for me.

I have now decided I was doing it wrong. I think now the key to successful outlining is writing something short and flexible. If it is too detailed, I will grow bored when I am writing the actual scenes. But if it is not detailed enough, I might be derailed.

As I was derailed when writing the novel in progress. There was so much stuff going on. If I’d had an outline, I might have had something to focus on while still being able give the characters their head. It is not enough to have an idea in my head of what I am going to write. It is too easy to let the characters take off without me and lose my grip on what’s going on.

So that’s what I am going to do. I’ve already started it (it’s in Excel, complete with a time-line). The events will be same. The first little bit of the outline is actually fairly detailed – but I’ve already written those parts so I got a pretty good of what’s going to happen, what I can get rid of or move to a later point in the story. I will cannibalize as I need to from the old manuscript.

The outline gets vaguer the further I get from the beginning. But I am not sure that’s a bad thing.