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Reasons I Don’t Use Outlines

Reasons I Don’t Use Outlines

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Writers are of all different sorts, backgrounds and utilize individual writing styles.

I know many who swear by outlines, making and completing them before they begin writing the book itself. Many writers never get to the actual point of writing their books because they are dead set on insisting they have to have a polished outline.

Yes, I jot down a few ideas, questions to ask myself later to refocus, and have plenty of random scribbles to get the thoughts and ideas out of my head (to clear up space to create more). But I don’t do outlines. And my best work happens when I don’t try them at all.

Here is why I am against creating outlines for books.

First of all writing stems from a creative process that is a combination of natural curiosities, instincts, energies and personal flow. The best writing ever written stems from a place of freedom – freedom from what others think, do and declare must be. The best writers challenge every notion under and about the sun from every aspect possible. Again this occurs from the writer getting in a place in which they are free from limitations others try to place on them.

Second, great writing comes from confidence in oneself, both in the process of writing and in one’s ability to be creative and produce that which must come next in their writing. Outlines become rigid formats that disable that flow of endless possibilities.

Third, writing is all about engaging your writer. The story you tell, the words you use, the emotions you invoke, the lessons you are teaching, it is all about engaging the reader to go with you through the book, placing them into the story or walking them through your tutorial. It is about bringing your reader out of their world, into the book (your world) and making them a part of it.

Outlines take the edge off this engagement. Let me explain another way.

When you go watch a performance or a sporting event, the excitement, energy, tension, relief, every emotion you experience and feel while watching it – is an extension of those performing. It is an extension of their energy and passion and focus and knowledge/skill in what they do that flows out of them and into you the audience.

This happens with writing and reading. The best books, the ones that get read cover to cover without being put down, are the ones who engage the reader the most – that is the ones in which the writer expresses every ounce of passion and energy and creativity they can get into their writing and through the pages and into the reader.

This is called Essence and I write about it in The Decision and Empowered.

When I talk about outlines being formatted, rigid, and preventing the writer from letting loose and getting into that creative process and flow – I talking about this thing called essence. Outlines remove the pure potential for a writer’s total essence to be put into their work.

And last – you the writer have got to know what you are talking about. There are two ends of the spectrum in this. Readers know when the writer has no idea what the hell they are writing about. You can tell when a reader has had to write out a detailed outline and gone line by line from that outline to write their book.

It’s not convincing. It’s not engaging.

The opposite side of this spectrum is the person who is too educated (book smart aka PHD) and while they are knowledgeable – they sure as heck can’t write in ways that engage the reader. You know these books – they are written in another language even though it’s called English.

The best writer is one who writes from the heart, from experience and passion. The one who holds the knowledge level of a master, has tried and true everyday experience in what they are writing about, and can speak with the reader on the reader’s level. Your titles and degrees don’t mean jack if you can’t explain it to a five year old. And that’s the kicker.

This essence, this ability to speak with the heart, soul and mind of your reader, comes from a place of pure love and passion and wisdom and it’s a natural connection with the receiver.

Maybe you are just telling a story – so tell it. You don’t need an outline for it. Write down your characters and their basic information (what they look like, their habits, their relatives etc). And just write. Let that darn story flow out of you – see where it leads you, let it take you on a journey while you write it.

If you write non-fiction – write it as you live it. Nothing sucks worse than a book packed with information and a dozen pages of references used at the end – because that is a tell-tale sign that the writer really doesn’t know their stuff. If you know what you are talking about you don’t need to quote ten pages worth of other’s material.

There is a certain balance of having that life experience and knowledge and making it usable for other people.

Take computer coding for example. If it doesn’t interest you, you will pick up a book about it and not understand anything it is talking about. This is because most books on the topic are written by computer masters who can’t relate to people – that is they can’t explain it to a normal non computer person.

But go to your favorite blogger’s website and they will have articles or ebooks explain how to use computer coding in basic English that even our young children can understand what is being read and go apply it.

The computer wizard loses their reader before they’ve opened the book. The blogger/writer engages their reader prior to the purchase or viewing of that how to article/ebook because the reader knows that person can communicate with others.

The computer wizard likely created that over detailed outline and followed it word for word. The writer/blogger wrote down the question “How do I?” and then answered it for everyone else to be able to use and just went with their instincts.

I don’t care how long you’ve been writing, what you write, or who you are. You’ve got to be able to engage your reader. You’ve got to write so they can understand you, so they can hear you, so they can feel you, so they can enter your world that you created from. This comes from a place of free flowing spirit where the creative process lives and you’ve got to keep it free from limitations.

*Writing down information as you go while you write the book is not creating an outline, this is simple jotting of notes so fifty pages in you remember the last name you created for Johnny on the third page. Outlines are step by step by detailed step.

Write a book that gets read cover to cover, not one that will rot in dust.

Read my EBook Focus & Value to learn how to engage your reader with your writing!

I also have a few Youtube videos with great tips for writers!

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Comments (3)

  1. Reply Jack

    I rarely use an outline for anything I am not being paid for and even then it is only the faintest touch. I want my writing to be fresh, interesting and engaging and outlines kill that.

  2. Reply Sarah

    This sounds like my kind of writing! I also agree with the part about writing so people can understand you and relate. Especially important in blogging.

  3. Reply Lynne Huysamen

    Thanks for this article. I also rarely use an outline when writing. I blog regularly and want it to be more fun and entertaining. I need to say what I want to say without rules.

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