Do you use an outline when you write? That's by far one of the most common questions I get asked from aspiring authors. It's a great question, but a hard one to answer. Why? Because the best reply I can give is...sort of.
Every author is different, but here's what I've found works for me: before I begin a novel (I just finished my fourth), I jot down bullet points of the basic situation/premise and some interesting things that could happen along the way. The bullet points aren't detailed, but they give me an idea of how the story begins and where it may go. Once I feel comfortable with that, I start writing.
And you know what I've found? Once I start writing, I don't look at the bullet points at all. I mean AT ALL. The story tends to take on a life of its own, and when that happens I know it's good, so I don't want to mess with it by looking back at my notes and trying to force something I thought should happen.
This approach is reflected in my personal life. For example, my friend Rosie is going to Peru in a few months, and the other day we were talking about how she already has the trip planned. I don't just mean the cities she's going to visit; I mean she has every day of the trip planned. That's just how her mind works. When I travel, I usually wake up in the morning, pull out my guide book, and over breakfast decide what I'm going to do that day. I may have a general idea of what I'd like to see while I'm in town, but I don't like to be too restricted in the details. (Rosie and I would probably not travel well together!)
The lesson here is that writing a novel is an art, not a science, so there's really no right or wrong answer. Do what works for YOU, and it will all work out in the end.
My third novel, a romantic comedy called Honey on Your Mind, comes out TODAY! I'm so excited! Click here to read all about it.
Maria Murnane is the best-selling author of the romantic comedies Perfect on Paper, It's a Waverly Life, and Honey on Your Mind. She also provides consulting services on book publishing and marketing. Learn more at www.mariamurnane.com.
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