Ever since I’d started to write longer stories – for a long time I was saying I can’t write things longer than 1000 words – I knew I was a plotter. I needed an outline.
Partially as a security blanket. I needed something to make me believe I can do this. When I’d signed up for my first BigBang (fandom challenge where you have to write a story with a minimum 20k wordcount), the longest story I wrote up to that point was around 4k. Writing a story five times longer than that seemed almost like an impossible challenge. An outline was one of the few things that helped me believe I can manage it (and I did!).
My outlining process is… hardly a process. 😉 I usually try to figure out the main things first and then fill out the rest. I don’t have to have every scene planned (I end up with a few “?” or “add something here” every time) and it’s usually pretty general, like “The first official date” or “Here comes the fight”. Sometimes it gets me in trouble when I stare at the blank screen and wonder how that first date should go, but in most cases I have something in mind already.
Planning restricts my whining that “I don’t know what to dooooo” to a minimum.
I also know that I write short scenes, so if I have a specific wordcount in mind, I need to plan for so many scenes.
And there’s one more thing: sometimes, staring at the half-filled outline, I get a sudden epiphany, something falls into place or I see the bigger picture, a theme I couldn’t see when I was thinking about specifics.
Something like this happened to me last night when I was outlining my NaNo, and suddenly I’m much more excited about this story. I don’t have a finished outline yet, but I have a purpose to it now. And it feels good.
If you write, do you outline? How do you do that?