Tuesday, April 17, 2012

O is for Outlining vs Organic


Are you an outliner or an organic writer?

Outliners have a plan before writing the first draft (i.e. chapter breakdowns, character profiles), whereas organic writers follow their inspiration, see where pen and paper take them.

I tend to be an outliner, but as of late I've been embracing the organic way of doing things. When I'm writing organically, without a plan of what must happen in a scene, I tend to bond with my characters more, really get inside their head and their heart and let them do the talking instead of imposing my ideas on them. Also, I find it much more fun to let the ideas just come naturally.

However, there are a lot of positive things about outlining too (i.e. having a clear goal about where you want your story to go). It can also save time on the rewriting if you have a general idea of what your story is going to be about.

That being said, I tried Karen Weisner's, First Draft in 30 Days. It was a really detail-orientated and helpful guide about outlining. I must admit, it didn't take me 30 days to complete, more like 5 months by the time I factored in a job, young kids, running a household, etc. But I completed it.

I thought I would just have to write the first draft of my actual novel (as implied in the book) because I had done all of the worksheets, and outlines, and research, etc, etc. It didn't quite turn out that way. I still have a lot of editing to do (though outlining has helped me not to have to re-write the entire plot of the book). Now I wonder if it was necessary to do that much detailed outlining before writing my novel?

It seems that just writing organically and letting the character speak for herself gave me the opportunity to get to know her naturally, and now in the second draft the character seems more convincing to me.

To outline or not to outline? I'm middle of the road when it comes to this one. I think too much outlining can create a lot of unnecessary work, but no outlining can create a lot of unnecessary work as well.


  1. Lovely post! Like you, I'm somewhere in the middle. Too much outlining makes me feel constricted, like my characters are in a strait jacket. But I do outline plot basics.

  2. I need to adapt more of an outline for my next project. I would suggest not going the organic route for the sake of your sanity. :) I'm having a tough time!! I love writing so I get antsy and want to dive right into the story.

  3. Thanks for the comments! I like outlining, but like Kittie, I feel constricted and lose the passion for the work when everything is 'too' planned.

  4. I'm organic with writing the first draft. go with the creative flow. From then on I need structure.

  5. I'm organic, although I've usually got the last sentence/paragraph in mind. I tend to write scenes as they come to me, rather than in order, and then have to piece many sheets of handwritten prose into a story, a but like a jigsaw. The main downside to this method is I probably have more writers blocks than an outliner. But it's that uncontrollable surge of inspiration that keeps me writing.