O is for Organic Outline
No, that’s not one of my outlines pictured above. It’s actually one of J.K. Rowling’s from the Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Me...I start off using an Excel spreadsheet for my outline and then print it off and hand-write notes on it as I decide to make changes. If I make enough changes I'll incorporate them into the spreadsheet, print it off again, then continue to scribble notes on it as I continue.
One of the knocks I’ve heard against outlining (versus making it up as you go along…or Pantsing), is that it can squelch creativity and become too restrictive. Frankly, I don’t see it…especially if you use something called an organic outline. That’s not an official term, and it’s not mine either. I read the phrase on another blog somewhere, or a comment, and I adopted it because it perfectly describes my own process.
The most important characteristic of an organic outline is that it is not static. It is a living, breathing, thing that adapts and grows right along with your imagination. It allows you to see how plot changes thought up on the spur of the moment while you write will fit into the structure of the overall story, and even how the various ripple effects caused by the changes may impact events later on. As I write my book I am updating my outline (when needed) at the same time so I can assure that I stay on both course and on pace.
Each major section in my outline represents a scene. In that section I list every character involved, what their motivations are, the setting(s) and how that plays into the scene, what the major plot element that occurs in that scene is, and most importantly...why the scene exists. Every single scene in a book must drive the story forward in some way, and if I cannot explain how or why a particular scene does that, then it shouldn't exist.
I have this ritual when I'm writing or outlining. I listen to music on my headphones, always have coffee, and I wear a baseball cap turned around backwards. The turned around baseball cap tells my family - I'M WRITING / DO NOT DISTURB.
Did you know I was holding a contest during the A-Z Challenge? You can read all about it HERE. Do you outline? Do you have your own writing ritual?