We all have our unique creative process. Outlines are helpful for many writers and for others, a more free-flowing, organic style works best. Whichever you style you use, the key is to make it work for you.
For me, no matter how hard I’ve tried to outline, my writing process is more organic (without an outline). Although this kind of process can take various twist and turns, get off track, and take longer to complete a project, sometimes a more organic approach can help you get to know your characters better. At least, that is how it has worked for me. However, I will admit that I’m trying to write from an outline—even if it’s more of a skeleton.
While exploring your writing habits and which system fits (and works best) for you, here are a few things to consider.
If you’re like me, a more organic writer, it can be easy to get lost in the story. Writing organically gives you a chance to let your characters evolve and introduce themselves to you. This is probably my favorite part of the organic process because many times I’ve structured a character to be one way, but they come out another. In some cases, this may change your storyline (for better or for worse—that’s for you to decide) or maybe will give you another story idea to write instead.
In my world of writing, the organic style allows to be play with my creative side and see where characters go. Once I have my characters, I put them in a scenario and build a plot around it. What is also nice about writing organically is you can allow the plot to shift or an unsuspecting surprise to pop up and not be thrown off by it. Let the story take you where it will.
Okay, I know what you’re thinking…won’t the story be confusing? Maybe. But that’s what the editing process is for. While writing, let your imagination go. They say your first draft is shit for a reason.
This is, probably, the preferred method for most writers. I have a writer friend who is a great outliner and enjoys creating character interviews (another technique I’m to embrace (somewhat)) and is much more faster at completing her novels.
If you’re starting out in the writing world, or are looking to improve your outlining process or techniques, a book I highly recommend is Million Dollar Outlines by David Farland. This book has been insightful and he offers some great advice on outlining.
For my friend, she likes the structure outlining gives her and she is more likely to stick to the story and not get lost. This doesn’t mean sometimes things don’t pop up (a character surprises her) or she doesn’t change certain plot elements. Instead, she uses her outline like a guideline.
One thing I’ve discovered about the writing world—and artistic people in general—is we all have a way of tapping into our imagination. Our creative processes aren’t like anyone else’s and that is okay. We all have stories inside us, or a painting or song, and the key is let it come out.