I’ve been thinking about writing process these days. Credit it to the Stephen King NY Times article where the generations talk about being writers (the entire family writes, either for a living or as a big part of their life), but I’ve been thinking about what it takes to produce a novel and to produce more than one at a time. For me,first there is the grain of an idea. That kernel that you can’t get out of your teeth and try to tease apart in your brain. (I use my morning commutes for this, typing out my ideas on my phone while on the train to work). Then comes the need to outline. That’s what separates an idea from a novel. If you can’t make an outline work, then chances are it will take you much longer and much more effort to write it.
As an agent, I’d often ask writers to send me their synopses or outlines along with their manuscript. The outline showed me that they’d worked out the kinks of their story and the manuscript showed me their writing ability. I’d gauge how much work a story needed based, not only on the manuscript, but the outline as well. A good outline doesn’t have all the details worked out, but it does contain world building information, character information, and plot points that will help a writer pull a story together in a way that make it seamless for the reader to enjoy the book. They don’t have to keep track of what’s going on because you’ve laid out the manuscript in a clear way.
I work with outlines especially when revising a manuscript. Whether for my own writing or for someone else, outlines hold the key to revisions. How? They’re the blueprint that you used when constructing your book. They measure how closely you followed your plan and if you veered off course, by changing the character or adding insight to your world. I like outlines because they build up your ability to write more than one book at a time (if you’re into that kind of thing, as many writers want to focus). That steady production makes it easier to write regularly that can translate into writing full-time since you’re nearly always producing something for your readers.
Be sure to comment on whether you outline or not. I’m curious to see what works for writers out there.