Thursday, October 17, 2013

The Writer's Alphabet - O is for Outline

Today's letter is O.  There are some great literary terms that begin with this letter.  Observation, ode, oxymoron, even the lovely sounding onomatopoeia.  The one I have chosen, interestingly, is none of these.  Additionally, it is one I have very little familiarity with.  Outline.

I am a pantser.  That is to say, I write on a wing and a prayer, hoping against hope that each time I open the trusty laptop, the words will come.  Happily they have.  But I address this post to the more disciplined of my readers.  You know who you are. You alphabetize your grocery list, organize recipes according to meal, you even have the easiest time at tax time, since your receipts are all in order. And when you sit down to write your novel, you are more than prepared.

I take this information from my outliner friends.  There are serious things to be done actually, even before sitting down to write.  You meticulously research your topic.  Then you write an exhaustive outline, beginning with the characters and their motivations, then settling into the story arc itself and those motivations.  I have author friends who choose the celebrities who best represent their protags and antags, and even go so far as to choose a soundtrack that specifically relates to each scene. When all of this is done, then you sit down to write.

I remember making outlines in school and they were such tedious and detail-filled affairs, I often wondered why couldn't I just get a grade on the outline alone.  To me, the resulting paper was just a bunch of the outline ideas strung together with conjunctions.  But I cannot deny that most of the novels I have read where the author has outlined have never been any less than amazing.  I'm so impressed I have even tried doing it.  Epic fail.  Seriously.  The closest I can come is the notes I pound into my iphone on the notebook icon.  See, told you. Epic.
But, if you are one of the lucky few who attempt the outline, best of luck.  I know you'll do great! Share with me who you are and we can be friends. In spite of your obvious anal retentive character, I can still be on your side!

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