Outline or Not Outline … Join the Debate

To Outline Or Not Outline?

Among authors, there is a heated debate regarding whether to outline or not outline your book. There have been countless debates about using outlines. It’s a very personal matter among writers. The determining factor is the method that increases your productivity the most.

The outcome of the debate is unsettled. Traditionally, non-fiction writers use an outline to draft their books. They view outlines as blueprints to move them step-by- step to the finished product. Having an outline makes it easy to define the problem and envision the solutions you’ll want to present in a non-fiction book.

On the other hand, fiction books are very imaginative. They might include unlimited plots, twists and storylines. They develop their own characters and scenarios.

A large number of fiction writers believe an outline is a mental straight jacket. They believe it restricts the flow of creativity and blocks new ideas. For these writers, an outline leads to a rigid expression of their content rather than an organic flow (which is sometimes interpreted as artistic). They prefer to let narrative forces guide them rather than be led by an outline.

outlines

The no-outline diehards believe that writing should be the art of creating. They believe you get to what needs to happen as you write. This far exceeds the task of completing a pre-set outline for the day. No outline means fresh, organic prose.

Many of them have no habits or rituals that prompt a writing session. Some have no scheduled times to write or any favorite writing places. Some even reject the tools designed to make the writing task easier. They live in their own writing world and make up any rules they need as they write.

The truth is, there are no cookie cutter writers. Therefore, there are no right or wrong decisions about using or not using an outline. There is only selection. Match a method (outline or no outline) with your writing skills and your personality to determine a preference. This offers the best expression of the real you through your writing.

What’s your opinion? I’d love to know what you think of this issue. If I get enough responses, I’ll post an updated post in the near future.

Do you need more information? You’ll find it in the Chapter 3, “Plan or Plunge: The Outline Dilemma,” available in our forthcoming book, “Night Writer: Optimize Your Time, Upgrade Your Skills, and Write Around Your Day Job.” You’ll find it on Amazon as of June 28.

 

Question: How Do I Write At Night When I’m Already Tired?

Last weekend I had the privilege of conducting a workshop at a local community college’s annual writers’ conference. There I met 25 or so eager writers who attended my session, “Night Shift Authors: How to Write Around Your Day Job.” It was an exhilarating hour of information about finding time to write.

Well, as I explained in the workshop, the issue isn’t always about your time; quite often it’s about your skill. More about this point in a future post.

The workshop covered working/writing myths and how to debunk them, how to set writing goals based on book genres, and how to create a writing schedule. I shared several writers’ apps, tools and tips to help keep their writing flexible. We didn’t have time to dive into the attendee’s questions so I’m posting them here with the answers I possibly would have given. Maybe there are other night writers among us with similar concerns.

“It’s not necessarily your time; it could be your skill.”

This first question is one most night writers can identify with. One attendee asked, “How do I write at night when I’m already tired? My eyes are blurred and after a short time I don’t even understand what I’ve written.”

It’s possible to take a week to answer this question. However, I’ll limit it to this one post. My response might cover a few more common issues of night writers. Instead of diving into an answer, I’d begin by asking a few questions to get a clearer picture of the dilemma.

First, I would have asked about the setting. Is it a room filled with people engaged in activity when you’re trying to write? Next, I would ask if you’d eaten before beginning the writing task. Last, I would ask if there was using music in the background.

“Music can create an inspirational writing atmosphere.”

Based on the answers to these questions, my suggestions might be as follows:

  1. Keep some water or juice nearby to help stay refreshed.
  2. Consider adding music to your writing ritual. It might be what’s needed to create a more lively atmosphere. When you take a break on your day job, try searching for something soothing. The right music can make all the difference for any writing session.
  3. A catnap could be the very thing to awaken you prior to writing. If you put off writing for 30-45 minutes to get some rest, it should be enough to move forward.
  4. This next suggestion should go over well. How about moving your writing away from home? Could you stop at a library or an eatery one or two evenings a week and do your writing there rather than doing it at home? Lots of eateries and coffee shops are open until 10 pm.
  5. If you can’t make use of the away-from-home scenario, consider creating a writing corner. This would be a place other than your normal writing space. This could create a fresh attitude toward the evenings’ work.

Have you faced this same issue? How did you resolve it? Feel free to comment on this post and share your own experiences. If you’re not having this issue, share one you are having and I’ll tackle it in a future post.

Night Writer Productivity Tools: Are You Using These?

Are you a Night Writer who is having trouble getting your book written because you work a full-time job? As I often tell authors, it’s not your time but your skill. Here are five tools you can use to increase your productivity and leave you with more time to work, enjoy your family and sleep.

There are hundreds of productivity tools available, both free and fee, that are waiting to be discovered and used. And many of them are the key to staying on deadline with your writing projects. The learning curve is usually quite small and most are mobile, available for most mobile devices. Search to find the specific application for your device. Some are proprietary to either Apple or Android products, and some work across all platforms.

1) Hemingway App – Here’s a screen shot from www.hemingwayapp.com (available for both Apple and Android devices)

2) After the Deadline. How about a site to help you with your most common writing errors? You’ll find it at After the Deadline (http://www.afterthedeadline.com).

3) Storylist – Get the mobile functionality you need with this app. Go to http://storyist.com.

4) The Brainstormer – Need a fresh plotline twist? This app stimulates an endless array of plotlines by spinning three separate wheels that provide you with the conflict, the setting and the subject of the story. You’ll find it at http://www.tapnik.com/brainstormer.

5) Mindmapping Apps and Programs

Here is a list of three mind mapping tools to assist writers of all genres. Try out several to find the one that works for you.

Need more? Get a list of up to 60 productivity tools from my latest book, Night Writer: Optimize Your Time, Upgrade Your Skills and Work Around Your Day Job, available on Amazon in e-book and print.

 

Night Writer: Could You Be One? Check Out These Points to Learn More.

I’m a night writer. Lately I’ve run into a host of night writers, more than I thought existed. These are writers who work full-time jobs, whether day or night shifts. We are engaged in lively conversations on the topic, many of which I’ll share in future posts.

Last weekend I had the privilege of conducting a workshop at a local community college’s annual writers’ conference. There I met 25 or so eager night writers who attended my session, “Night Shift Authors: How to Write Around Your Day Job.” It was an exhilarating hour of information about finding time to write.

Well, as I explained in the workshop, the issue isn’t always about your time. Quite often it’s about your skill. You’ll learn more about this point in a future post.

Night Writer Myths and Solutions

The workshop covered working/writing myths and how to debunk them, how to set writing goals based on book genres, and how to create a writing schedule. I shared several writers’ apps, tools and tips to help keep their writing flexible. We didn’t have time to dive into the attendee’s questions so I’m posting them here with the answers I possibly would have given. Maybe there are other night writers among us with similar concerns.

It’s not necessarily your time; it could be your skill.


This first question is one most night writers can identify with. One attendee asked, “How do I write at night when I’m already tired? My eyes are blurred and after a short time I don’t even understand what I’ve written.”

It’s possible to take a week to answer this question. However, I’ll limit it to this one post. My response might cover a few more common issues of night writers. Instead of diving into an answer, I’d begin by asking a few questions to get a clearer picture of the dilemma.

First, I would have asked about the setting. Is it a room filled with people engaged in activity when you’re trying to write? Next, I would ask if you’d eaten before beginning the writing task. Last, I would ask if there was using music in the background.

Night Writer Tactics

Based on the answers to these questions, my suggestions might be as follows:

  1. Keep some water or juice nearby to help stay refreshed.
  2. Consider adding music to your writing ritual. It might be what’s needed to create a more lively atmosphere. When you take a break on your day job, try searching for something soothing. The right music can make all the difference for any writing session.
  3. A catnap could be the very thing to awaken a night writer prior to a writing session. If you put off writing for 30-45 minutes to get some rest, it should be enough to move forward.
  4. This next suggestion should go over well. How about moving your writing away from home? Could you stop at a library or an eatery one or two evenings a week and do your writing there rather than doing it at home? Lots of eateries and coffee shops are open until 10 pm.
  5. If you can’t make use of the away-from-home scenario, consider creating a writing corner. This would be a place other than your normal writing space. A night writer could easily create a fresh attitude toward the evenings’ work.

Have you faced this same issue? How did you resolve it? Feel free to comment on this post and share your own experiences. If you’re not having this issue, share one you are having and I’ll tackle it in a future post. Be sure to check your my latest book, “Night Writer: Optimize Your Time, Upgrade Your Skills and Work Around Your Day Job.” It will be available on Amazon next week.

Sharing this post from a fellow authors at CURIOUSEREDIT (www.curiouserediting.com). Enjoy!

The Only List of Author Resources You’ll Ever Need

Resources are great. But the right resources can save you so much time. I’m often asked for all sorts of how-tos on social media, email marketing, author branding—you name it. For the last couple of months, I’ve been compiling them all into a nice list just for you. Because I love you.

Favorite books on marketing/branding/publishing/writing:

Your Brand Is Calling by Mike Loomis (honestly, if you’re building a business, just hire the man so that you don’t waste time like I did. When I hired Mike, I had a 35% increase in profit . . . in one quarter.)

Your First 1,000 Copies by Tim Grahl (it’s all about email marketing)

Making a Killing on Kindle by Michael Alvear

How I Sold 30,000 Books on Amazon’s Kindle by Martin Crosbie (beginners, you’ll want to read this one first)

Publishing 101 by Jane Friedman (if you have any interest in traditional publishing, this is the only book I recommend)

A Writer’s Guide to Characterization by Victoria Lynn Schmidt (this changed everything for me in terms of archetypes)

Writing Deep Scenes by Martha Alderson (once I learned that there are actually four parts to a novel, it made outlining so much simpler)

The Emotion Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman (ensure this is by your side when writing dialogue)