Friday, May 4, 2012

The Drawn-out Outline

Proponents of outlining books and stories far outnumber those of us who believe outlines do more harm than good. So for those of you who swear by the standard decked, organized thought process that outlining represents, please continue.

For the rest of us, who have dutifully tried and had too many works die this way, there's got to be a better way to organically work through longer narratives without resorting to this structural dead end. (If this sounds similar to my post on is.) Have you ever shared a story you are writing with a friend, only to feel that it had been written and you didn't need to finish the tale?

No matter how you put together an outline, the basic idea is the same. You decide the main topic, add subtopics and explanations, partition the facts into understandable chapters or subheadings and conclude with a reasonable ending. The very nature of this organizational "tool" is to tame the creative urge.

I will concede, however, that despite all the downsides of this organizational aid, it may be the tool many fall back on just because nothing has come along that works better. Here are two suggestions to aid in the search to organize more visually:

  • Notecards: I have tried using notecards with colored inks, along with using the Microsoft cards that come with the Windows operating systems, all with no long-term success. However, the ability of some apps to "gather" the notes and make them searchable is worth researching.
  • Mindmapping: Whether on paper, a computer or through an app, being able to brainstorm rather than organize as you go along can help some writers push through the organizational maze.

If you have any other suggestions, please let me know by commenting.

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