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!

Talking about Writing

All writers do it. We babble on and on about our current and future projects, we make promises we have every intention to keep, but no determination to do so, and we talk about our work some more. We can spend hours—years even—talking about our blog, novel, poem, and short story ideas. But if we never start planning and writing, what is all the rambling about?

We spend too much time talking about what we’ll write and not enough time putting the words on the page.

I am just as guilty of doing this. I’ve spent nearly three years talking about my novel, but at the beginning I only wrote around 350 words, planned about four scenes, and jotted down a semi-detailed plot. Two years later, I completely scrapped everything but two specific characters and the overarching plot. Now I have approximately 6000 words written, but I haven’t touched it much for over six months. I keep talking about it to everyone, but I never really try to create Zoe’s story.

Don’t get me wrong, talking can be a huge help in plotting, writing, and getting past writer’s block, but it can also be a wonderful tool of procrastination and even kill your desire to write.

When you spend all your time telling others about your ideas and giving them detail after detail, you may lose your yearning to actually create the work you’ve been rambling on about for ages. You start to feel as if you’ve told everyone who matters all the important things about your project, and as a result, you don’t feel as though you need to write it anymore. This has definitely happened to me, multiple times. It happened when I first started writing my novel. That’s one of the reasons I started over almost completely. It happened when I started my blog back of last time. I talked about it, but when I sat down to type my posts up, I couldn’t think of anything because I had already told a large part of my audience what I would be saying in my posts. At that point, it didn’t seem to matter anymore. So I stopped writing as much, and eventually stopped writing altogether (though there were other circumstances that played into that poor decision as well).

Speaking to your friends about it can actually wear you out and cause you to get bored of the project. I’ve done this with a few short stories. I’ve talked about them so much that I got tired of them, set them aside, and never picked them back up again. Thinking of which, I should probably look through some of those. But if it’s all you talk about with people, they’ll start to think it’s the only topic you want to discuss, so they’ll ask about it. And you’ll have to talk about it more, answering questions that may or may not be sincere and wishing you were talking to a cat about sleeping all day instead.

If you’re rambling on about your project, make sure you’re actively working on it as well. And leave some mystery! Don’t delve into all the details, just mention what you’re stuck on, how much you’re writing or plotting currently, or some broad ideas. When you omit details in conversations about your projects, you may spark their interest and they may become one of your most avid readers. Leave a possibility for intrigue, work your butt off, and see how your stories flourish.

How do you talk about your writing projects? Do you indulge your listener with loads of details? Do you talk about it until you’re bored? Let me know in the comments!