Did you ever have to write the paper and first and THEN outline it?
I did that a lot. Even now, I often have trouble knowing what my thoughts are until I think them, so how can I organize them when I haven’t thought them yet, yes?
HOWEVER (or, as folks put it now, That said), I found that outlining did help me organize my thoughts, and still do, and here’s why.
If I have a point on my mind, sometimes I belabor it by stating it then repeating it. Then repeating it. Then restating it. All that does is weaken the point by diluting it and turning it into white noise.
Outlining what I’ve already written shows me where I’ve done that; then I can put those bits together and make the statement so strong and so well-placed that it’s effective and memorable when stated once.
In an essay or a short story, it’s easy to print out the piece and make lines in different colors of marking pens in the margins, with each color denoting a particular point. In a novel, that can get cumbersome.
As always, Johanna Harness has a brilliant solution to outlining a draft of a novel (or non-fiction book, for that matter) in order to organize it.
Do you never want to repeat a point? Sure you do, sometimes. But you want to make sure that any time you state something important, it has an impact. Every time you state something important, it needs to be the inevitable and satisfying culmination of a wind-up that is best released by precisely that point. You don’t want your point to turn into a Chinese Water Torture.
A WRITING PROMPT FOR YOU: Irritate a character by having someone repeat a point over and over and over and….