The majority of my writing life I have winged it. Budgets are for losers. So are writing outlines! Writing down my spending, creating and keeping a budget and creating an outline for a nonfiction book or novel makes me want to claw my face off. .
Just sit down and start. At some point the muse will direct my words and the book and its structure will flow magically from my fingers.
Sounds great and would have been great if it ever worked out like that way. I have started and stopped countless novel drafts because I had no outline. Write a novel without an outline, even a simple one? Sure! That’s the pure creative spirit. Don’t kill creativity with tedious left-brained activities. The Muse hates planning!
Once I started a novel with a rush of energy. 7500 words in three days! The energy petered out and all work on that novel stopped. I had no idea what to write next and believed this was somehow part of the process.
I would never take a road trip without some sense of how to get where I want to go.
Yet I’ve been more than happy to waste my time starting and stopping multiple drafts.
That many open loops in my writing life lowered my self-esteem to the sewer. Abandoned projects fed my writing insecurity which correlated directly to not writing.
Do you detect a pattern?
No outline = unfinished manuscript = shitty self-esteem.
I’ve learned to finish the damn book!
Each finished project feeds my self-esteem. Notice I offer no judgements on the quality of the finished draft. For all I know it is the worst garbage written by any human, ever.
I write a first draft to finish it. Once finished, the second, third and fourth or twentieth draft makes the work better.
There can be no second draft without the first, and the draft must be complete. I have tried more than once to create a second draft with an unfinished first draft. I failed. Your mileage may vary.
Now I plan. Now I make outlines and tinker and research for a long time before I sit down to write the draft. The outlines functions like a map. I know where to go and how to get there. New twists and observations arise during the writing of the first draft. I expect that and add those new elements right along with the ones in the outline.
If you are doing it right, you’ll have a heaping mess upon completion, but a heaping finished mess.
HACK: Make an outline for your next project.
For novels, check out Save the Cat and Story Grid