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 worse. 

Quick disclaimer, my experience is in writing young adult fantasy novels. This advice may not apply to every genre. 

Second disclaimer, when I say outline, I mean the bullet point outline we make before writing commences the first draft. That list of things that need to happen. I often refer to my first draft as an outline for my second draft, I do not ignore this second outline.

So, why ignore the outline? 

Well, first things first, you probably remember the most important parts. So just go with it. If you don’t remember it, maybe it’s not that important. And if it is important, just go back and add it later, it’s fine! 

If you don’t pay attention to the outline, you’ll probably wonder off 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, if it just filler, cut it out later. Your first draft should and will 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, they might still have happened. And you know that.

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 book, the fact I’ve spent the entire week doing things like writing this, that 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 if it 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 missions 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? As I asked, I answered. I realised there’s a lot more to this than meets 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 your writing may not entirely respect your plot.