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What's better in fiction writing, a plot outline or free flow writing?

Updated on July 4, 2009

Outline vs. Winging it

I think the critical point is what works best for you. For years I was lead to believe that the only way to write a novel, or even an essay, was to write an outline. Turns out, I think that was just the personal bias of the teacher who hammered it into my head. The fact is, writing is both a science and an art. Science relies on rules, and there are plenty of rules in writing, particularly when it comes to grammar. But it's also an art form. You don't tell people who are painters that they need an outline before they can paint a picture. What they need is a vision.

Chapter one of my novel Antiquity Calais: Standing at Armageddon came to me in the form of a vision while I was meditating during an energy healing session. The vision was so powerful that I can close my eyes and still see it unfolding today, several years later. Likewise, the final chapter of that book came to me in a dream. Now I don't have these kinds of inspirations every day, but in this case, I was blessed. Do you think I was going to waste time writing an outline when I had a rockin' introduction and a rockin' conclusion ready made? Of course not. I started writing the next day, and once I got rolling, I didn't stop until I had a first draft done.

Then, after letting it set for a few weeks, and having read it to my son who is both my greatest fan and greatest critic, I began revising. I knew I needed more material to fill in the gaps between the two pre-ordered bookends, but the important thing was that I had the ideas. The beautiful part of writing on computers is that once you get your ideas down, it's easy to shift pieces around within the manuscript where they make the most sense.

Now, you probably get the sense that I'm not a big fan of outlines, and if you got that sense, you are right. However, I know some people who do their best work off an outline. It all depends on you. Try it both ways. I find freewriting to be liberating, because I am learning what happens to the characters in much the same way the readers do. For me, an outline is much too constrictive.

As long as you've stopped by to visit my hub, if you would like to take a look at the first few chapters of Antiquity Calais: Standing at Armageddon, I would be most pleased. Then let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by!



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    • profile image

      belfast maine 9 years ago

      Great Hub you have here :) Please check out my Belfast Maine website would love to network!

    • crashcromwell profile image

      crashcromwell 9 years ago from Florida

      Shirley - Your request has highlighted a problem I've had with the organization of my hub pages. I've written so many different hubs on different topics that I think it's hard for people to find them all. So in response to your question, I have just reorganized my profile page to have links to all my hubs at the bottom. You'll find the Antiquity Calais: Standing At Armageddon links at the top of the list!

    • Shirley Anderson profile image

      Shirley Anderson 9 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Wonderfully written, thank-you for answering my request.

      I would love to read your chapters....where are they?