The Magic City

The Magic City

Friday, February 12, 2010

The Best Laid Plans

Robert Burns wrote the "best laid plans of mice and men often go awry."  I am finding this to be true with respect to my writing.  Specifically, I am referring to the futile efforts to adhere to my outline.

My outline.  My dear outline, painstakingly crafted over several weekends. I think its best use at this point may be toilet paper.  I read books upon books all advising that when writing a story with mystery elements, an outline is essential.  I had a long outline, a short outline, a fluid outline, and an outline of the outline.  Worthless, all of them.

When I sit at my keyboard, eager to write the scene I carefully outlined, I find myself trying to force things that don't feel natural.  The scene felt natural when I outlined it.  Now that I am writing, the story I outlined won't work. The scenes, plot and dialogue all seem stilted and awkward.  My fingers fly typing strange remarks and actions which I had not anticipated.  I'm getting pretty scared.

An aside - I don't hear my characters talking to me.  Conference after conference I have heard authors say that their characters talk to them and whisper (or shout), "no, that is not what I would do."  Not so much as a peep from any of my characters.  Their voices are not what is derailing my outline.

The problem with my outline is that I feel that story has been written.  Now, my short attention span and flying thoughts are taking the story to places I hadn't anticipated.  I am terrified.  What if, by abandoning my outline, I write myself into a corner.

I am a planner.  I love plans, lists and organization (pipe down anyone who has seen my house).  Writing by the seat of my pants is terrifying.  Horrifying.  Mortifying.  Yet, I think I have to fly blind for a little while.  Hopefully, the time spent in the outline will not go to waste.  At least I have a lot of extra scratch paper on my desk!


  1. Hi Heather-
    I feel your pain.
    I outline a couple chapters broadly, then write the chapters, then outline, then write. Otherwise, my outline isn't anything I can use.
    Did I say I feel your pain?

  2. I may try that. I have two WIPs - one was painstakingly outlined. The other, I have a short synopsis that I am using to guide my writing. I am finding the synopsis method easier to follow. I may have over-thought my outline.

  3. Funny, I just blogged about this last week.

    I'm a planner in life, but not so much in writing. I've determined that I need to have an idea how the book will end (which may change), and know a few milestones along the way, otherwise, I end up deleting a lot and starting over, or not finishing. Whew, run on sentence! ;-)

    I struggle with this every time I start a new book. Good luck!