When you write, do you have an outline? Do you know where you’re going, or do you wander aimlessly? Maybe you do a little of both.
I don’t use a formal outline that follows each step in detail, but I do use a story arc that pinpoints the beginning, some detours I intend to make along the way, and the end. I allow flexibility, to incorporate new ideas that arise during the writing process.
However, it is possible to allow too much flexibility. In my case, I allowed one of the main characters to take charge. My story went to places that it should have never ventured. As crazy as that sounds, it happens. You start writing and you find that instead of your character following you, you are following your character.
It’s fun and exciting at first, until you find yourself backed into a corner. That’s when you realize how far off track you’ve gone, and it’s usually too late to reign the story in. You end up having to cut through the path your character took and realign it with the rest of the story.
If I had had a more structured outline, and thought things through a little more, I could have avoided a huge headache and a lot of extra work.
An outline helps keep you focused. When you have an outline (and stick to it) you won’t be as tempted to go off on a tangent, or allow your characters to steal the show, as in my case. This doesn’t mean you will NEVER deviate or come up with great new ideas. But if the outline is there, you can see how these new ideas fit into your original intention.
So what do you do? Do you have an outline or do you wander aimlessly?