To Outline or Not to Outline

I read an article recently, linked to a writer’s group to which I belong. The article was in response to a comment from Stephen King, “Outlines are the last resource of bad fiction writers who wish to God they were writing masters’ theses.”

My friend’s post was to initiate conversation and opinion among the group. It was a success since most of the group commented. Some people were outright offended at the king of horror’s remark. Others were more contemplative.

For me, I do not use an outline. I think my decision stems from not wanting to feel restricted. I like my characters to ‘do their own thing’, with a little guidance from me. But, how do I keep track of my storyline and character development?

Copyright: Grammarly

As my story develops, I dedicate one page (typically the last page so I can easily find it) where I make notes of developing character descriptions and traits. I also note what page a certain event takes place and point-of-story development in each chapter. All of my notes assist me with further development and clean-up during the second draft. This style helps me to feel free to explore and develop other sub-plots which in actuality give background to a character or scene.

So, in the end, I actually do end up with an outline, but it is an outline after-the-fact. During editing my final draft, I refer to my notes for any loose ends that need tying up. My final step – edit, edit, edit some more and then send it for review and final editing.

I am wondering how many other writers do not outline or outline in my kind of backwards fashion? Do you have any thoughts or preferences?

“Strategic planning is worthless – unless there is first a strategic vision.”
– John Naisbitt


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