Ask your average writer on any writing forum this question and be prepared for a passionate argument. I wouldn’t even be surprised if there was a little bloodletting by the time things were said and done.
The act of creating a novel is hard enough, as anyone who has wrote one, or has attempted to write can attest to. But ask that writer how they go about constructing said novel and the opinions are going to fly. I have no idea why the subject of outlining can turn your average level-headed author into the equivalent of a wrestler getting ready to body slam his opponent in the ring, but believe me, a wrestling match is nothing compared to this debate.
So at the risk of creating total and absolute havoc I’ll brave it and ask the question; Do you outline, or do you just wing it?
Now, before I tell you what camp I am in, I’ll give you the pros and cons for both sides.
The Outliners – A novel is a daunting creature when you stand staring at it, its cursor blinking at you, daring you to make it move. The plot can be unyielding and stubborn and those who reside in this camp state that they outline to tame the beast. Outlining allows the writer to plan the twists and turns in the story, develop characters and story arcs without having to waste time with re-writes and finding plot holes. Outlining helps to do this for you. Once you have outlined your story- detailed or not so much – the rest is simple. Just write the story around the outline. After all, you already know what’s going to happen, you just have to put some meat on the bones and shock it with a few thousand volts and bring it to life. However, there are those who will argue that outlining sucks the life out of the story. There is no spontaneity, no life, no passion in the words. Hey, I’m not saying that- they said it. Don’t hurt me.
The Wingers – Those who write this way do exactly as the title suggest, just wing it, creating the story from one word to the next. They discover mistakes perhaps after the fact, develop characters as they appear and basically write an entire story that exists only in their mind. The ending is an unknown as are the plot and story arcs. No one knows what is going on, including the author. All in all a very disorganized way to create a work of art. But it works for some. Those who write this way insists it makes the writing exciting, fresh and interesting- it is as much of an adventure writing the story as it would be reading it.
Now you can see why the blood starts flowing. No one will admit either camp may be right and vehemently defend their stand. The only problem is, no one is wrong and no one is right. So why even argue?
So which camp are you in?