NaNoPrep: Why I Need Outlines

NaNoWriMo is barrelling towards us. You know the time of year where a bunch of people all over the world decide to stop putting aside whatever reasons they had to not work on that book they wanted and start writing. It is a kick in the pants for writers who do it regularly. It’s an opportunity for new comers to test the waters. It’s a big event with thousands and thousands of people.

For me, I write all year round. Even this year when my writing was rather spotty I still wrote over 100,000 words. I wrote a novel and a half and I enjoyed every moment of it. That said, it was a dud year for me. Some of the vigor was lost. I couldn’t tell you why. It’s only been the past month and a half that I’ve really felt this writing and editing bug again. Thus far, I’ve mainly been editing. NaNoWriMo is going to be the kick in the pants that I need to get it all going for me again. The motivator. The jumpstart. It doesn’t hurt that my best friend is finally joining me on the endeavor so it’s extra reason to continue on.

I’ve talked about the importance of outlining previously. Over the past year, I’ve largely stepped away from outlining. I wanted to write more organically and let the story just come. If I needed to make major changes later that’s what editing was for. I wanted to let it flow.

I am not a flow kind of person.

I know this now and I accept it. The works I produced this year, while each had huge glimmers of hope (one of which I may one day come back to, replot and finish) they are probably some of my worst work. Yes, the line to line writing was largely better than my first novel. However, it lacked heart and soul. The characters (except in the one I may spare) lacked fleshed out personality. Most importantly, they were meandering and lost. The plots never came together, thus the characters never developed properly and the entire story just floundered. It’s not a good look and not something I think I will do again. Going with the flow works for me only with short stories.

When it comes to novels, I need an outline. I need to know what a chapter will be about. I need to know the point of the chapter. I need to know the conflict of the chapter. I need to know the characters. There are so many little things that come up in writing that not having a direction makes it difficult for me to create a compelling story, much less a cohesive plot.

So I’m plotting now. I’m getting all my thoughts together on how things will play out. I’m working out the kinks of the plot so when I sit down to write, I don’t need to worry about if someone’s motivation is going to make sense. I’m laying out my chapters so I can see how the pace is working out for me and if I need to pick it up at all. I have to say I’m feeling really great about this project and It’s been a while since I could say that.

Are you participating in NaNoWriMo? Will you be using an outline?

6 thoughts on “NaNoPrep: Why I Need Outlines

  1. I’m still on the fence about participating. I don’t really have the time because I’m entirely focused on two other writing projects and my job is a big time-consumer. As for outlines… nope. They’re not for me. My characters always introduce themselves and take me on the journey with them.

  2. It’ll be my first NaNo this year, but I’m coming from a different place as I mentioned in my post today. For me it’s been a struggle to accept the need for some outlining and plotting. I’m very much a “let’s see where things go” person. I usually have a few major scenes and overall plot idea, but not a blow by blow account planned. So it will be a different way of working – not that I intend to have a full outline, just more of one than usual – and I’m hoping I’ll learn new things from the NaNo experience, however well or not it works for me 🙂

  3. Not outlining hasn’t been working out too well for me either. I feel lost when I don’t know what’s going to happen, and when I feel lost, I lack the motivation to continue.

    Good luck with NaNo this year! I’ll be sitting out due to being in the editing cave, but I’ll be rooting for everyone! 🙂

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