My Freeform Outline

I’m a big fan of outlines. I kind of have to be, with what I write. I have sixteen books planned out for the Woven universe and I kind of need to have an idea of where the story is going. So I have a series outline, of course. But the series isn’t all one long story. There are trilogies and two book collections and stand-alone books. So, in the event that I have a couple books that go together, they need their own, separate outline. Then, of course, I have an outline for the book I’m working on at the moment. I’ll even go so far as to outline the chapter I’m working on before I get started.

What I’m saying is, I pretty much know what’s going to happen in every book I intend to write for the rest of my life.

Except that I don’t. While I was writing the Broken Patterns Trilogy, I made outlines like I described above. Then I’d rip the outlines up and redo them part way through. Or I’d end up rewriting so much of the book in the editing process that what I ended up with was totally different than what I’d started with. This doesn’t mean that my outline was bad. It just means that the story grew and went on its own path, like a living thing. It did what it was supposed to do, in other words.

Now I’m writing a new Woven story. A two book collection, hesitantly titled The Roc Hunters. (That’s pronounced rook, like the chess piece. It’s a great huge mythological bird.) It’s a new story, with new characters. I thought it might be time for a new approach.

I opened up an Evernote note and got down some of the major things I know I want to have happen in the books. I have a beginning, an end, and an antagonist. Then I threw in a few protagonists for good measure.

Then I started writing.

As I go along, I’m adding some things to the outline and deleting others. Characters are appearing, weaving themselves into the story in ways I didn’t expect at all. It’s all flowing, all coming to me in new, fascinating surprises.

I was afraid I’d get writer’s block, writing this way. But actually, the opposite has happened. The story is just coming to me as I write. The more I move the pen, the more of the path ahead I can see. I’m more excited than ever to get to my writing every day, and I find myself writing more than I used to.

Now, I don’t know how this rough draft is going to end up. The benefit of a more detailed outline is that the first draft ends up reading more like a second draft. So it might be that the second draft of this book is an even more massive rewrite than I usually do. (Traditionally second drafts take me five to six months to write.) But maybe that’s worth it if the book I write is more original, more organic. Maybe this will be the best book, the one that shows how I’m growing as a writer. Maybe I’ll hate it and scrap the whole thing.

The point is that I don’t know how this is going to turn out. Which is a feeling I’m used to in life, but not so much in my writing. I think I like it.


3 thoughts on “My Freeform Outline

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  1. Sixteen books? WOW. I would definitely have to have an outline. I don’t like to even read more than one book at a time. Read, finish, forget. Read, finish, forget. Well, some of the best I do not forget. I do read two books when they are very different, like an inspirational and a fiction. But more than one plot at a time is rare for me. Keep at doing it the way you do best.

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