Writing With and Without an Outline

Writing With and Without an Outline

Do you outline your story for a book or for a screenplay? If you do, have you tried writing a longer work (book or screenplay) without creating an outline?

In his latest video, author and blogger Daniel Poppie suggests new writers to create an outline for their book-length work. He talks about more than one advantage of outlining a book, mainly having a map of directions on where you are going in your narrative, and overcoming the all-infamous writer’s block.

As someone who has written longer works both with and without outline, I agree with Daniel and find it helpful to create an outline for longer works. But I also love writing without outlines an in my case, my fictional works seem to fare better without outlining. My screenplay Out There, which became a finalist in the 2020 Southeast Regional Film Festival, was written without a specific outline. It started with the key characters and central premise in my mind in 2015 and as I worked on the story in 2017, the creative process went smoothly to create a story that turned out good with plenty of artistic satisfaction for me.

As I write this, I also am working on my other screenplay, a sci-fi/thriller with a female lead, with a scene-by-scene outline completed. It is going well too.

There is one difference I’ve experienced when writing a story with and without an outline. Other things being equal, an outline-led story has a clearer direction and focus. Think of it as a train journey, the outline is a ticket where you now all your stops, or at least major stops. Thus yu know when, where, and via what route are you getting to your destination.

Writing without an outline, on the other hand, is like a train journey without a specific destination and/or route map. You explore as you go and choose the best available route as you discover more along the way. In this sense, you get a chance to explore more, allowing you to compare whatever best route you feel. Such a journey lets you cover more grounds and settle where you feel best.

In my case ,I find outlines really useful when writing a longer essay with a dozen or more paragraphs. An outline in such a work not only helps with the route map, but also keep a good pace to move through the material and arrive at the destination without bumps and bruises.


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