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Detailed Outlines Are For The Birds

When it comes to writing, I'm much more of a "fly by the seat of your pants" kind of girl than an "every detail needs to be set to paper before I start writing" girl... which sounds incredibly funny, because I love details in real life. I'm getting better, but there was a time when I had to known when everything was happening, who was involved, how long it was going to take, where everyone would be, the color of the trim of the building, the shape the bushes are going to be trimmed to...

Okay, so maybe I wasn't ever that horrible... but there were definitely moments when I felt close to it. I don't know why, but the knowing gives me comfort. It tells me exactly how much of a breather I can take, so I know whether to plan on relaxing or preparing for the next giant hurdle.

Writing is the opposite for me. Once that document is open in front of me (or blog form, or sheet of paper), I forget all about the little things. It's like putting a giant piece of blank canvas in front of a painter. My fingers hit the keyboard (or pick up the pen) and words appear out of nowhere. I don't even realize what is being spit out half the time until I'm nearly to the end of a page and see it full of things I didn't think were possible fifteen or thirty or forty-five minutes ago. It's the bigger picture breathed to life by all of the words swirling around inside my head just waiting to get out and be heard by someone.

That's why I don't like to sit down and write out an outline. Outlines are rigid. A canvas leaves room for my imagination to wander wild and free. For once, the details aren't so important.

If outlines are rigid, then I guess detailed outlines are just stifling. Suffocating, even. Where does imagination fit in? Is there any room for it at all? Maybe detailed outlines should be for the birds.

Even with all of that swirling around in my head, I find myself staring at the word processing document currently open on my computer... a detailed outline of the prologue and half of the first chapter of the novel I will be attempting to write next month. Ten minutes ago, it was beautiful and inspiring, but right now I just want to delete it and start all over again from scratch on November 1st - completely plotless, just aimlessly writing words because I can.

The thing is... I can't work like that this time around. There has to be an agenda. There has to be an outline. I don't have the time or energy to play around trying to figure out what I want to write about November 1st. Playing around will be suicide.

In that case, detailed outlines may be for the birds, but if they are... well, don't call me Cat for the next couple of months. Just call me a birdie.

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