Oh, Outlines…

Why don’t I outline?

Maybe it’s the days I spent writing essays in school. All that prep work for a measly 500-word essay. I sneeze out 500 words anymore. Yet I remember spending days doing research, putting notes down on index cards (3 X 5 as they had to be), then outlining. Oh, how I hated it.

Fast forward over 20 years and I am now kicking myself.

As I get further into my craft, I am finding it harder to keep track of where I am. (Having nearly 20 open projects would do that to a person). Unless I am eyeballs-deep in a story as I am now with Gravity, I often learn that I have no idea what I was doing at the point I left off. Prime example? A story I am calling “Mazzy” about a teenage girl with super powers (hyper telekinesis) who falls into a group of similar people and what would happen in real life if people started showing these powers. Let’s just say that they didn’t listen to Uncle Ben.

Every so often I have to open up another story to help get the creative juices flowing when I begin to stall on the main project. The problem? Where the hell in the story was I at? What the hell is the main character doing right now? Where is she going?

Don’t get me wrong, I know full well how the story is supposed to pan out. I know the plot twists and angles I am going to take. Problem is in the overall plan: I don’t know where I left off without now re-reading what I’ve done so far… all 22,000 words.

I can only blame myself. At least my continued lack of using a certain tool to better track what I am doing: outlines.

I want to use them, but all I keep thinking is how much I hated doing them.

What I have to remind myself is that it wasn’t the outlines specifically that I hated, it was the fact that I had to write a 500-word essay in the manner that I had to do it. Outlines were just a part of a whole. And not until now do I realize the importance of having certain tools, such as outlining, in my repertoire of writing skills. It just makes sense.

Like any skill that one doesn’t use, it will just take some practice to build.

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