I’ve been meaning to outline the books I want to write this year for a few weeks, now. Yet every time I pull up a blank word document, I just stare at it uncomprehendingly and the words don’t follow. Eventually, I’d close the document, wondering why the ideas weren’t being written down, because I know they are there. And I know that, if I could just get the basic premise out there, then the rest of the story would unfold before my eyes–and I really want to discover where some of these stories want to go. So why was it so hard to get even the basics written down?
Because I was trying to write the wrong thing.
I was so focused to how I was writing my outline instead of just bloody writing it. I had to get the wording just right. I had to set up the characters, the conflict, the stakes while all representing the tone, the age range, the genre, the uniqueness. I had to make it appealing, make it sound beautiful, yet also be concise, distinct and memorable.
Doesn’t sound much like an outline, does it?
Sounds helluva lot more like a query or synopsis, though.
You know, the things you must craft for professionals to see in order to pitch your work. The documents that are the only chance you have at catching an agent’s attention and hopefully starting the journey of getting your book published (if you decide to go the traditional route). You know, the things that you usually write–and stress over–after the book is finished.
Not an outline.
An outline is something for me. It can be as orderly or as sporadic as I want it to be. It can be as chaotic or as jumbled as I need it to be. It can be as detailed or as sparse as I create it to be. There are no rules for formatting, no pressure if I don’t have all the kinks figured out, no consequences if it doesn’t reflect all of the elements that make my book publishable in less than a paragraph. Yet unconsciously, I’ve been transferring the pressure I usually feel trying to craft the perfect query into my outline, where that pressure certainly doesn’t belong.
No wonder I haven’t gotten any of these outlines down.
But, now that the revelation has been dawned and the blog post has been written talking about said revelation (as tradition demands, if you follow this blog), I have a good feeling that I’ll be crossing out “write outlines” from my To-List in the very near future. And I’m really excited about it, because outlines means fresh ideas, new stories, new characters to obsess over (and kill) and renewed excitement about writing. Sign me up.