Just Follow the Bread Crumbs… Can A Detailed Outline Help Us to Get Through the Pitfalls?

Wow – what a fabulous week of posts we had last week on the topic of Pushing Through! I took away something from each one.

I’m armed to the teeth with techniques and motivation to crush the writing fade– abolish that horrible sick-to-your-stomach feeling you have when you are stumbling through something, unsure of where to go, convinced your story is fading and becoming insubstantial. Thank you, all.

Lately, I’ve compared the writing I do at my job at an animal shelter with writing for children. I know how different they are – after all, one is non-fiction and the other fiction. However, I hit a lot of snags when I’m writing fiction – snags I seem to avoid at work. I realize now that it’s not by accident.

When I am writing a proposal for a grant, certain components of the proposal are cast in stone and out of my influence – our financial health, the number of animals we sheltered last year, the number we adopted out, etc.   The narrative section of the proposal, however, is the part where I can tell a story. In fact, many elements that are used in fiction can be used in non-fiction as well. I make notes, an outline if you will, of what I have to communicate. I may change direction as I am writing, but if I do, I go back to revisit my notes. It sounds rather sterile, but it truly allows me the freedom to concentrate on language and story.
I was the last person to champion the idea of using an outline when writing fiction, so it’s ironic that I’ve realized that having a defined direction might help me tremendously. I usually do most of my writing first and then see where the story is going. Kind of a touchy-feely technique that fails more times than not.  My outline – if I do write one down - usually comes after I run into trouble.

Having a detailed outline is the not the answer for every writer. But for me, knowing how the bones of my story are connected may help tremendously. In all likelihood, I may revise the outline, change direction or discard a character. I know there has to be flexibility. Still, having a foundation to rest my story upon may give me enough confidence to push through when I’m lagging or lost.

Does anyone find that having a solid idea of what your story is about and where it’s going before you write it helps to avoid some of the hair-pulling torture we run into?

PS: Wishing all the Muses and all who read this blog a wonderful Thanksgiving. We have so much to be thankful for!


Nice connection - breadcrumbs... Thanksgiving... LOL

But, joking aside, I really like the idea of figuring out the most important supporting structures of the plot - the things you want to communicate, and get creative in the spaces between those things. Off to try it out.

Thanks, Lia! Let me know how it goes!

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