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To Outline or Not to Outline?

As I sat at my desk to write my first book, I thought to myself, Step 1: Write a Detailed Outline of the Entire Book. I wanted to track every movement and event, perfectly orchestrate each scene. That way I’ll avoid any surprises, missed tie-ins…etc.

My pen twirled in my fingers as I contemplated how to do this until finally…I gave up and changed my approach. I resolved to instead write a few basic points about each chapter, providing only a rough roadmap.

If you’re driving from New York to Los Angeles, you can decide to start on Interstate 80. But, you don’t know and probably need the flexibility to decide later where to stop. Sure, you might initially plan on an overnight in Lincoln, Nebraska. However, you could change your mind if the traffic is worse or better than anticipated.

The analogy applies to writing. Writing is all about using one’s mind to push a boulder up a hill. You’ll need to map out the basic parameters of the hill, but you can’t predict the rough or smooth spots until you’re there. Don’t take away the flexibility you need to explore the creative genius that happens naturally when you are “in the moment.” Sometimes it’s better to go with the flow.

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