Tuesday, January 29, 2013

[Link] Outlining in Reverse

by Aaron Hamburger

In my experience, one of the surest ways to kill the creative energy of a work of fiction at its inception is with an outline. The very word takes me back to fourth-grade English class, with all those confusing Roman numerals and capital letters.

During my early years as a writer I dutifully worked with the outlines of my youth. However, the longer I wrote, the more loose the structure of those outlines became. The numbers and letters gradually transformed into bulleted key words or bolded phrases, little Hansel and Gretel bread crumbs I left for myself to find and expand during revision. Later on, I wrote in stages, first blocking out the general parameters of my piece, then going back to fill in the details. It’s much the same way a figure sculptor begins by carving into a hunk of raw clay with broad strokes to determine the proportions of the limbs before going into muscles, veins and fingernails.

Over the course of my 17-year writing career, I began to give up on outlining — that is, before I write. I’ve come to prefer a more organic approach to creation, first laying out my raw material on the page, then searching for possible patterns that might emerge. But now, after I’ve completed a first draft, I compose an outline. I’ve found that this is the surest way to make sense of the work. I originally thought I was a genius for having invented reverse outlining, but I’ve since learned that many writers do this in some form or another.

Continue reading: http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/01/21/outlining-in-reverse/