Thursday, October 24, 2019

Outline or handcuffs?

I’m about 50,000 words into my work-at-hand, I’ve edited what I have, and feel good about it. To date, I have followed my outline, which, truth be told, only lists scenes in two or three sentences. It is admittedly far less detailed than other writers who outline that I know, but I’ve honored the outline so far.

Yet now as I reach chapter 50 and look over the outline, I’m seeing plot threads that can be tightened and others that can be expanded.

I spent a couple of months creating the outline –– again, nothing compared to writers like Jeffrey Deaver, who says he spends 8 months on an outline and 3 months writing the book. Nevertheless, I’m leery to let go of it because it seemed so rock solid when I finished it.

But the book comes alive on the page, not on the storyboard. So my instinct is to let go of the wall and skate to the middle of the ice. (This is the first real outline I’ve ever used, after all.) Michael Chabon says he outlined The Yiddish Policemen’s Union thoroughly and then deviated (obviously successfully) about halfway through.

So how married to one’s outline should one be? Is there a point where the novel should simply take off? Os is the trick in knowing when to skate on one’s own?

My plan is to spend a few days on the outline, looking specifically at the second half of the book. Sort of a “measure twice, cut once,” as my father used to say, approach.

I’d love to hear others’ thoughts on this topic.


Some photos from my road trip to Ohio, where daughter Delaney, 21, a senior and lacrosse captain at Kenyon College had her last Parents Weekend. Keeley, 10, and I loved seeing Audrey, 18, our freshman XC and Track runner at Kenyon's rival, Denison University.

1 comment:

Sybil Johnson said...

I feel like outlines should be taken as a starting point. If a writer wants to stray from what's in the outline, that's fine.