Writing to an Outline, or …I Have No Idea Where This Is Going

Here’s a secret about me:

I never use outlines.

I always hear people talking about them, using them to outline where their books are going and what scenes they need, etc., etc., and it sounds so great, right? It sounds so lovely and organized and I look at my mess of a desk and I think, Why am I so scattered? I should outline!!

I wrote THE GIRL WHO NEVER WAS with no idea where it was going. I had a few vague ideas in my head and I thought they would all link up. Every time I sat down to work on it, afterward I would tell friends, “I think I know where it’s going now,” and they would say, “…That’s what you said last time,” or “two weeks ago,” or “six months ago.” And then I would say, “No, no, now I *really* know!”

Yeah, I never knew. I never knew until I typed “THE END” into my Word document. And even then I’m not sure I knew.

I’m not sure this is a good way to write. I’m not sure I would recommend it to others. I have tried *not* to write this way. I’m in the middle of a novella now in THE GIRL WHO NEVER WAS universe, and I tried to be so organized about this novella (especially as it has to fit in between GIRL and it’s already-written sequel). I sat and I wrote an outline, a sequence of scenes and the character arcs that would get me through to each scene and where everybody was going to end up.

Writing this novella was like pulling teeth. I was connected my pre-arranged dots but I wasn’t really feeling anything about the story. And then, last weekend, everything went off the rails and something happened I completely didn’t expect or plan for and for the first time in working on this story, it felt *alive* to me. For me, for whatever reason, I am terrible at predicting what my characters will do; I know my story has started to take off when I lose all control of it.

And maybe that’s not the wrong for me to write? Maybe it’s just *my* way to write? Maybe we just all write differently?

What do you guys think? How does your writing process work?

skylardorsetSkylar is a native Rhode Islander who fully believes that the best type of ice cream shake is called a cabinet (and she prefers a chocolate one). Boston gave her a degree in English (from Boston College), a degree in law (from Harvard), and the setting for her first novel, THE GIRL WHO NEVER WAS, about a teenager who finds out she’s half-faerie-princess and half-ogre. Skylar loves tea (hot and iced), breakfast for dinner, and the Red Sox. You can find her wasting time on Twitter and Tumblr.

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One thought on “Writing to an Outline, or …I Have No Idea Where This Is Going”

  1. I’m with you on this. I dream that one day I’ll use and outline and it’ll work for me, but so far I’m much happier when I just feel my way through a draft, letting the characters decide what they want to do.

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