25 June 2005

The Trouble with Outlining Ideas

I want to write novels. My life's ambition is to write a long story, something beyond the 4-6 pagers I whip out and fuss over. Why do I write so many shorts and not enough longs? Outlining.

I seem to outline a story when its progression is stopped. I sit down and figure out general ideas of action; I lay them out, step-by-step, and the whole story plays out in my head. But when I go to write the tale, it's gone. The outline makes little sense, or the story progresses in a different direction than originally intended one.

I guess the real trick to working with outlines is to consider them as tentative, as more of an itinerary. I tried staying on track with outlines, to see them as these fenced in paths, but the paths faded to well-worn trails in a meadow and often find myself wandering elsewhere, creating a new story, a story different from my outline. I guess the real trick is to let a different story form from your original.


Robert Casserly said...

I once heard an author give a talk about this kind of difficulty. She said she got around it by writing the LAST chapter first. Then, she went back to the beginning and worked forward with the last chapter as a goal, but was flexible to allow that the story might end up in a different place than originally intended, in which case the original last chapter was happily discarded, because it helped her reach a goal, no matter whether it was used or not.

Kyle Stich said...

I've heard the start-with-the-ending technique as well. My problem is
I get these killer ideas that fizzle out at the end. Maybe it reflects my personality, often starting something with full force then losing steam at the end.