Today we're going to talk about outlining stories. All strictly artistic, spontaneous, organic and/or pantser writers should now leave the blog, lest I poison your well, ruin your process or otherwise mess with your mojo.
It's not that bad. Outlining can be a blast, if you stop with the dread and go for the fun of it. I did that last month with my outline for my NaNoWriMo 2017 novel. I had the general idea of what I wanted to write, so basically I just channeled the protagonist and let her tell me the bare bones of the story in her voice. Since I think Emma is hilarious, it was something I really enjoyed -- and that is the key.
If you don't like writing traditional outlines, why try writing them at all? Instead, why not write what happens in your story like a bullet list:
Soviet missile sub commander defects -- with invisible sub.
CIA drops analyst on US sub.
Subs meet; get cranky.
Analyst and defector become periscope pals.
Second Soviet sub arrives.
The cook is a saboteur!
Sam Neill character dies.
Soviets think defecting sub sank.
They defect happily ever after.
Okay, it's a bit tongue-in-cheek, but that is a bullet list-style outline of The Hunt for Red October. I covered all the major plot points in ten lines (and just fifty words) off the top of my head. Took me five minutes because it was fun.
For those of you who are muttering that you're not into list outlining, okay. Why not invent your own method? I did that back in 2015 with story cards, and in 2012 with SCARAB outlining, and in 2008 with my speedy ten point plot outline. So now it's your turn. What can you think up that would make the task easier, faster, or more interesting?
Don't limit yourself to what you can do on the computer, either. You can use index cards, sticky notes, a small notepad, a story journal, a composition book, a cork board collage -- anything that helps you organize your thoughts can also work for outlining a story.
Finally, back in 2015 I reposted my master list of novel outlining links, and most of the links still work, so if you don't want to follow my method, try someone else's. See what feels like fun for you, and you might never again dread outlining.