The writer of the Inkygirl blog, Debbie Ridpath Ohi, conducted a survey on whether writers prefer to outline or not (results here). I didn’t participate at the time because I was either busy, or just extremely scatterbrained, and didn’t see it. A few writers, like myself, decided to join the party a little late and detail what exactly we did to plan our novels and short stories. The instant my answer was on the screen, I realized how inconsistent I was. Here’s the comment:
I’ve found that what I do in the planning stages varies from story to story. For most short stories I write, I know in my head what I want to happen and just write it. For longer ones, I write down important (and sometimes not-so-important) events chronologically.
In my first novel, which I’m currently editing, I started without a clear idea of where it was going until a couple chapters in and then I wrote what is probably better described as a synopsis, though a bit longer and wordier than most. Then I realized that novel was too short so I added what I’d planned to be the second book onto the end and just wrote down events in chronological order like I do for longer short stories. That worked for me.
I’ve started another novel, which is still in very early stages of drafting, and decided I’d try out writing another long-winded synopsis. So far it’s working for me. I don’t think any of what I do could really be called an ‘outline’.
I haven’t really decided what works best for me, as the ’synopsis’ is time-consuming and sometimes too detailed while missing out important bits, while the chronological list can become full of too many details but I rarely, if ever, miss anything important. I kind of like both ways, to be honest, and I think I’ll just go with whatever feels right to a particular story.
So… yeah. I can’t stick to one method, and I don’t think I’d really want to. I’m still rather new to the world of serious writing in terms of completed works, even though I’ve been writing with the intent of publication for over two years. Maybe I’ll develop a concrete method that’ll always work for me in the future, but for now I’ll just go on how it feels.