March 8, 2017 by Valerie Ullmer
How I Learned to Write – March 8th, 2017
Outlining and What If Questions
I would have to admit that I’m an a terrible, disorganized writer without an outline. My thoughts are jumbled, my plot points don’t flow, and I usually get stuck 1/3 of the way through, and I’m lucky if I get through the entire book. I can’t even write my way out of the problems. My first novel was a disaster because I plotted as I went along, thinking that the story flowed as thoughts came. But when I read it after I had finished 55,000 words, I literally cringed. I tried rewriting it, several times, to salvage the story because I loved the characters and the possibilities for the story, but after the fourth time of trying to fix it, I gave up.
But before I started my next book, Kai, I read a wonderful writing reference by an author I mentioned in my first How I Learned to Write post. K.M. Weiland. (You will find that she has several writing books that are wonderful references.)
There are several tips in the book to get your started out outlining, but the one that quickly became effective for me was the what if questions. For me, it is the easiest way to generate ideas for my story and I always get a natural sense of how the story flows. I do this with pen and paper before transferring it to Scrivener.
Here are the what if questions from the first scene of my latest release, Seth.
I have to admit that outlining and writing are fluid. Some stories will flow for you. You have an idea of a beginning, middle, and an end and everything in-between is controlled by your instinct as a writer. And other stories will be trying. You have an idea, and it doesn’t flow or fit into your story, and you make changes. I have outlined entire stories before, only to change the first half of the book because my ideas when I first outlined didn’t make sense when I started writing.
But what if questions are one of many different ways to generate ideas and develop a story. I would recommend you try and use as many tools that you can find, and pick one that inspires you and matches your writing style, thus unleashing your creativity. But whatever you do, don’t get discouraged. Writing is difficult, but when you read over your manuscript and smile at how each plot point gels with the story overall, you will know that all your creativity, planning, and writing was worth it.
So no matter what, just keep writing!!