Ronel Sidney asked if I ever started a writing project with an outline and then ended up not following it and going in a different direction. Yes…though not often. The reason is twofold.

First, I seldom use outlines. (I know, I know! We’re supposed to, and with nonfiction I create a very basic, barebones outline if I feel I REALLY need to. Otherwise…nah.) I guess I’m more of a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants writer, particularly with fiction (which seems to be 90 percent of what I’m doing these days). How in the world can I come up with a fiction outline that summarizes chapter 14 when I haven’t even written chapter 5 yet??? Some authors are wired that way and can do it; I’m not one of them. For the most part (and again, especially with fiction), I know where I’m starting and where I’ll end up, but everything in between is as much a surprise for me as it is for the reader.

Second, on the rare occasions when I have come up with an outline (often because I was co-authoring and the other writer was much more organized than yours truly), I still found myself veering off the path as the book took on a life of its own, though I tried to stay as close to the outline as possible

Having said all that, let me also say that I remain true to my journalism training, which taught me so much about disciplined writing. It also helped me develop my version of what I refer to as the train-of-thought writing method (there are other names for this age-old, tried-and-true format). I so believe in this writing method that I have taught it at writers’ conferences for years and have even put together a workbook on it. The title is The Train-of-Thought Writing Method: Practical, User-Friendly Help for Beginning Writers. It is available in hard copy and Kindle on Amazon.

Hope that answers your question, Ronel, and that it helps other beginning writers as well. This is a tough business, but we love it or we wouldn’t be in it, am I right? Blessings, dear readers!

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  1. Ronel Sidney March 12, 2010 at 10:19 pm - Reply

    Thank you so much for posting this… I have been praying about my book idea and even wrote an amazing outline however; just recently have changed the whole plan and now have no outline just God’s direction.

    I am only focusing on the plan right now but after I am done with my last two college classes (5 weeks) I will begin your study on writing and also beginning my research at the same time.

    Thanks again!!

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