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Where Are We Going? When Do We Get There?

The correct answers are “Planet 10” and “Real Soon”, but those won’t help the aspiring novelist doing NaNoWriMo.

On Day 3 the original run of The Everyday Novelist addressed outlines and if they can help or stifle creative freedom. The episode is even called “Outlines and Creative Freedom”. Once again, we get some Dean Wesley Smith language which I didn’t catch the first time through.

For me the interesting part was Dan discussing using outlines for longer and more complex plots. I’ve used outlines more for short stories. I don’t worry about side tracks in novels. In fact, one of my favorite novels stylistically is The Celestial Steam Locomotive by Michael G. Coney. It was filled with lots of divergent side stories like an old epic poem.

But a short story has to be tight. I’ve found myself writing scene cards, notes describing what will happen in a scene before writing a short. I need them to keep from wandering too far afield.

Yet, as Dan suggests, I don’t let them be a straight jacket. They aren’t there to keep me from taking a scenic bypass that adds a mere 10 minutes. They are there to keep me from wasting 3 hours stopping at the world’s largest ball of string.

In writing longer works I find my mind does jump ahead. Which is fine. There is no rule you have to write things in order. Nor are there any rules requiring to you to keep the version of scene 24 your wrote no matter how smashing it is if it no longer fits. Just set it aside and get on with it to write a new one.

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