I’ve tried on paper, I’ve tried on Microsoft Words 2004 and 2011, I’ve tried on Storyist, and I cannot make an outline. At first I thought perhaps it was because I cannot draw straight lines despite being a linear thinker, so doing it on paper is too much work because I have to use my ruler like I’m in the fourth grade again. Microsoft Word can make lines for me, but it is always getting mad at me for not using complete sentences and for making up words. Storyist accommodates creativity and lists everything very neatly in the sideboard. It ties outlines to characters and settings and plot points and chapter drafts.
So clearly the problem lies with me.
The most successful (i.e., least failed) attempt I have made exists on a piece of double-sided printed paper in size 8 font that is not even the full two pages. Needless to say “a page and a bit” is not particularly comprehensive of a book-length project.
I do find, though, as I’m making Attempt X of an outline, which parts I am most excited to write. This is perhaps why I have a page and a half of teensy writing that doesn’t get very far: because I have sections of pretty much first-draft scenes in the middle of an otherwise-dull outline.
In one sense this is a good exercise. The parts that ignite my imagination are obviously the parts worth writing. It is easy, though, to get trapped in those “transition” scenes before the exciting bits. It is usually during these scenes that I get stuck and decide to put “þ olde Hilroye” away for the evening. Maybe it will look better in the morning.
It doesn’t look better in the morning.
And then I wish that I had just written the poetic, violent death sequence that had played in my head over and over while I was looking up climate graphs for the Czech Republic to set the scene for pathetic fallacy while Sir Dies-A-Lot is on his way to said death sequence.
On the other hand, I now have a desk chock full of looseleaf paper – some of which is paperclipped, some of which have numbers, most of which have neither – that is probably enough to fill a book, without actually being a book.
Perhaps the most revealing evidence of my continuing issue with outlines is the face that this post was called “The Thing About Outlines” when I started drafting it in my notebook, after which I went straight to my laptop, rambled on, and in fact revealed several of my “things” about outlines.
So, the Thing About Outlines is: they’re killing people. Worse still, they’re killing people without any surrounding context. And for this, they must sit in time out for a while until they learn to play well with others (namely me).