You heard me! 

Ignore that outline! It’s pointless! Problematic even! 

Okay maybe not that far. But outlines can actually limit your writing, making it essentially worse. 

Quick disclaimer, my experience is in writing fantasy young adult novels, specifically about dragons. 

This may not apply to you. If you’re writing about unicorns maybe the outline is esencial. Who am I to say? 

Second disclaimer, when I say outline, I mean the often bullet pointy outline we make before we start writing the first draft. Once that first draft is done, it essentially becomes the new outline and should not be as ignored. 

So why do I say ignore the outline? 

Well, first things first, if you wrote the outline, you will remember the most important parts. So just go with it, if you don’t remember it, maybe it’s not important. And if it is important, just go back an add it later, it’s fine! 

If you don’t pay attention to the outline, you’ll probably wonder of a couple of times, maybe a side mission, maybe a new character, maybe a conversation that goes nowhere. And you think that’s a bad thing… but it’s not! 

Kill your lovelies. 

As in, cut it out later. Your first draft should have bits and bobs to be cut out. Those bits that get cut add flavour to the book even though we no longer see them, because they still  happened. 

See, in real life, I don’t only exist when important things happen. I exist right now, sitting at my computer, staring angrily at traffic and writing about writing. And later this week, when I receive my first physical copy of my first ever book, the fact I’ve spent the entire week prior doing things like writing this, that’s what leads to the hype that will show on my face when I open up that box. 

The same applies to your characters. You may think anything that isn’t published is pointless, but it really isn’t. It’s a difficult lesson to learn and even more complicated to truly understand. I definitely didn’t get it the first time I was told, but I think I do now. 

Another reason to ignore the outline is, sometimes, those side mission turn into big plot points! My original outline for my first book, it was going to be a one book series. Don’t know how I ever thought that was going to work. 

But as I wrote, I asked questions, and who’s behind this? And what’s he up to? And where’d she come from? And as I asked and I answered, I realised, there’s a lot more to this than meet the eye. 

Had I stuck to my original outline… it would have been a very different book.

So, when do you listen to your outline? You wrote it for a reason, right? 

Writer’s block. Plain and simple. Don’t know where to go next? Go to your outline, where am I, where am I heading, cool. Continue. 

That’s the only time I go back to my outline. It’s quite often, I get lost all the time in my own head. The outline is important. 

Third disclaimer, I guess, because I want to make clear, I’m not saying not to make an outline, I’m not saying not to keep it close. I’m just saying, don’t hang it up behind your computer and glance at it every other word. 

It’s a guide, it tells you where to start and end and a couple of stepping stones. But the real magic happens in those first, second, third, fourth drafts. Fifth, sixth and seventh are just editing, the opposite to magical.  But still important. 

Remember there are two important parts of every book, the plot and the writing.

The outline is pure plot with no respect for your writing. So you writing may not entirely respect your plot.