There are several writing topics that get bantered about but are never truly settled. The main reason is because there is no correct way to write a story. We all have our ways. What works for me, may not work for you. One of these unanswerable questions came up at a recent writers’ meeting I attended:
To outline or not to outline?
I don’t use a formal outline – I hear voices. I find that characters take on a life of their own. Even when I start with a definite storyline in mind, the character ends up taking over the story. Why does this happen? I think that good characters write their own stories.
So if you’re trying to decide if it’s worth your effort to write an outline, my answer is to spend more time on developing your main characters instead. Don’t just give them a name. Make sure you know your character’s backstory, what’s their favorite food, why do they hate the antagonist? Once they are given life beyond a cardboard cutout, your characters will tell you their story.
I do keep a basic story outline in my head as I go, but I prefer to let the story go where the characters lead it. I guess the answer for me is: Outline to your heart’s content, but when your fingers hit the keyboard, let the story, and your characters, go where they want. I think, to some degree, you have to let yourself relax – especially in the first draft – in order to let the words flow.
You can always change it in the next draft.