You’ll sometimes hear writers talk about an outline. This used to confuse me. I never liked making outlines in school. I’d agonize over what was a main subject and when it was appropriate to indent and list. Things would have indentions to the indentions and there would be Roman numerals and capital letters and lowercase letters, and before I knew it, I’d become lost in organizing the very thing that was supposed to help me organize my research.
Such is the world of an occasional compulsive.
Eventually, I learned that, in the world of writing, the term “outline” is a little more loose. A basic outline is the skeleton of a story, and one doesn’t have to arrange it in such a rigidly structured form. For me, really, the outline is my rough synopsis. Three to six pages with a summarized beginning, middle and end.
This outline keeps me on track. I tend to write it in one sitting, over a span of time encompassing anywhere from one to three hours. It’s a brainstorm session, the birth of an idea. I coax it through to the end, and, when I am finished, I have written a novel.
You might laugh, but that’s the essential truth. The novel is born in those moments, despite the fact that there are still months of work before the finished product. I think of it in much the same way one would think of having and raising a child. What you have at the moment of birth is a person, and that person will always be who he or she is, entire and whole and complete. The process of living rounds out that person. The process of writing rounds out the novel.
And, much like the expectations you have for your child when he or she is born, things never quite develop in the way one has planned. It is, however, nice to have that guiding force. The synopsis. My outline.