Anxiety and Outlining

When it comes to my blog posts, I plan really far in advance. I know it isn’t exactly an outline, but it works as one. Then there are my short stories and my novel. For these, I’m usually a “pantser,” writing everything that comes to mind as it arrives. But I’ve learned over the last year that I can’t write a novel like that. Short stories? Maybe. But a novel? That ain’t happening.

So I’ve spent hours continually going through the vague idea in my head, attempting to create a tentative outline, and it stresses me out to no end. But overall the idea of finishing it and actually working on the book has been inspiring. At one point, amidst my excitement and motivation, I messaged Azelyn to tell her how determined I am to finish the first draft of my novel this year and that I was actually trying to create an outline, which obviously surprised her. What she didn’t expect was a stream of messages over the next few days (or weeks, really) complaining about the process of outlining a book that I’ve been wanting to write for years now. I wasn’t even complaining about the process as much as I was about the fear of not being able to create the themes I want to flow through the book.

I kept telling her I would finish the outline and send it to her for months. Then one day, I forced myself to sit down with a cuppa, a container of Cheerios, my computer, and Facebook Messenger and type away. I set goals for the book and then for each section. After that, I thought about every major thing that I wanted to happen, and I tried to organise it and fit it into the sections and then into chapters. I finished my outline.

After months of procrastinating, complaining, and staring at a blank screen, I finished it.

But here I am, actively writing a book, still freaking out about my outline.

Will I even be able to use it?
Will the lessons I want to teach through it ever be realised?
What if something I don’t expect happens to the characters? How will I work that in?
How will I be able to fit all of these scenes together?
Is there even enough stuff here to make a story long enough?
Or is there too much?

I’ve already thought of some scenes that I had been so excited to write that I now have no idea how to fit into the outline, and that scares me.

But that’s the thing about an outline: It isn’t set in stone. You can change it.

Don’t let your fears or anxieties stop you from outlining, but more importantly, don’t let them stop you from writing. I know it can be stressful, overwhelming, and confusing, but it’s worth it. You’re worth it.


Are you a “planner” or a “pantser”? How do you handle your anxieties about outlining and plotting? Let me know in the comments!

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A Boggus Life

I am an eclectic reader and editor who solves Rubik's cubes, writes, draws and paints, and longs to live in England and France.

2 thoughts on “Anxiety and Outlining”

  1. As always, I enjoy reading your writing, so I’m so happy you finally got around to further working on your novel. I can’t wait to hear about how it develops based off your outline.

    As you know, I’m a major plotter when it comes to novels. With my short story series, I knew it was time to call the outline quits when I calculated how many square miles the entire map was and how long it would take to walk/horseback ride from one end to the other.

    When it comes to anxieties, I don’t usually have too many. I change my outlining style for every story, the more I figure out what works for me and what doesn’t. Whenever I run into a problem, I tend to ignore it until I come to the rough draft. Not very inspirational, I know. But it’s just an outline.

    Thanks for another great post!

    1. Aw. Thanks!!
      Haha! I remember the conversations and potential collaboration that story sparked. (Finding the longest possible walking path from the edge of China to the tip of Africa is probably not the smartest thing to do.)

      Haha! Fair point. I’ve already encountered some problems, but I’m determined to figure all of it out somehow.

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