The value of an outline


Hello, and welcome to 2011. Only three more years to the 100th anniversary of Word War One, so keep that in mind as we move towards an orgy of remembrances.

The value of an outline. I’m not going to say anything new here. There’s no reinventing the wheel. If you like putting pen to page and letting it all hang out without the benefit of a structured approach, go for your life. I very rarely work to an outline, and the sprawling efforts of some of my stories attest to that fact.

This time around, I’m working to an outline. You might say I’m even cannibalising a story to do so. I read an intro by David Drake to one of his collections that he outlines the absolute crap out of his novels. He mentioned one outline being in the order of 18,000 words, which is a novella in itself! Thankfully, I don’t have the patience for that level of adventure and my outline is around 2000 words. But it is a special sort of outline, because it actually used to be a story.

In about August last year I wrote a four page story, all in first person perspective. I thought it was the bee’s knees. Then it got rejected. Nothing new there. So, I sat down and looked at it and thought I wasn’t doing justice to the story. Don’t get me wrong, it won’t win any awards, but if you’re going to spent all that time and effort creating something, let that baby fly as high as it can.

So, in the last few days I’ve sat down and used that four page story as the outline to a much expanded, less bare bones tale of an old man and a bunch of snowmen. And thanks to the outline, my story has a beginning, middle and an end. There won’t be any meandering or adventures down a blind gully. Thanks to the outline, I managed to turn in 1281 words of less than scintillating prose this evening, but that’s okay, because the next step after completion and sticking in the bottom of a drawer for a few weeks is the delightful edit stage…

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