Reply To: How do I prevent outlining from becoming a creativity killer?

Forums Fiction Plotting How do I prevent outlining from becoming a creativity killer? Reply To: How do I prevent outlining from becoming a creativity killer?

Brian Stansell

Hey Natalie!

I say an Amen! to Daeus (@daeus-lamb) on this one.

Personally, I would consider myself a light outliner. I outline both my scenes and entire book, but only on a scanty to medium depth. I enjoy the stability, but it still leaves room for some spontaneous creativity. I get my creative satisfaction mainly from my prose–juicy dialogue, beautiful descriptions, setting the tone with pacing and word choice, developing symbols or motifs, etc. I find there’s so much satisfaction here I don’t worry that my outline confines me to a fairly specific story.

He is right. If you over plan or write an outline that is too dense or detailed, all of your creative energy and the mystery of discovery will be spent on the dry bones of a story, that needs the flesh, blood, muscle, sinews, breaths, sweat, and tears to fully come alive.  These elements should be found in writing the scenes.

I just wrote a longer post (click here) on this very thing to Khylie (K.M. Small @morreafirebird ), also a fellow short story writer, I might add.  Perhaps you two need to meet.  😉

Hi, Ashley (@ashley-tegart)!

Ashley makes a good point too.  Sometimes you need to get away from the blue screen light and grab a notebook and find a setting conducive to thinking.

Pen and paper is a life-saver for me. I do most of my brainstorming and outlining on paper. When I’m unmotivated to write a particular scene, I’ll also write it with pen and paper. Finding a nice notebook and pen (I have a fountain pen I love writing with) somehow makes everything more enjoyable for me!

Pen and paper are more visceral instruments to work with.  They cannot be associated with a TV or a source of distraction.  They are focusing and quiet. They don’t ping and beep at you like a microwave oven, or your incessant phone going off to announce yet another attempt to reach you to sell you that all-important pesky car warranty.

I had a spiral notebook that I carried everywhere with me.  I would get an idea and put a number on the line, then write out the idea.  I put big black, block letters in a Sharpie saying “Brian’s Idea Book” on the cover. I carried it through college. Ate with it and scrawled ideas while sitting at a table by myself in the college cafeteria.  Funny how doing that day-after-day seems to draw a curious crowd. 😁  (Some people are just nosey… Just kidding.)

Later, I used those collective notes and the numbers to tag a general outline together and found that a great many of them fit into an overarching story.  And because I captured them as they occurred to me, I found I had collected a wealth of ideas to draw from whenever the story seemed to flag or needed a little something to get my MC out of a bind or untangled from a Gordian Knot.

There are many methods. Just find the one that fits your personal style and preferences.

Brian Stansell (aka O'Brian of the Surface World)
I was born in war.
Fighting from my first breath.

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