Is it Really Necessary to Create an Outline for Your Novel?

James Patterson, most successful author of our time is so struck on outlines that he devotes two chapters to them in his online writing class.

The problem is, I’m a pantser. I write by the seat of my pants. In other words, I sit down at a computer and start writing, and the characters tell me the story.

I do not plot and I do not outline.

But James Patterson. He’s not someone one should ignore, right? After listening to what he had to say, I went back to my novel, Virgo’s Vice,  which was in the editing phase with my publisher, and created a belated outline. Surprisingly (to me), it helped me see more than one flaw with my story and I was able to make big improvements.

I stopped working on the next novel, Scorpio’s Sting, which was in my pre-submission editing phase, and went back and created an outline. It helped me to see several problem areas. In particular, the timeline. The outline made it easy to find events that were in the wrong order.  It also helped me to identify (and delete) chapters that did not move the story forward, because we all know every chapter must do that or it isn’t needed.

Next, I started writing “Fat Girls Rock,” the fourth book in my Redneck P.I. Mystery Series. I tried to start with an outline. I swear I gave it a lot of thought, but nothing came. No inspiration. Zilch. It stayed unwritten. I ended up writing a one-page synopsis, and allowed myself to start writing the story. The lack of an outline nagged at me, and the writing dragged. The dreaded unmentionable thing loomed. Writer’s Block.

This past Monday I had some time on my hands and I told myself “To hell with it, I’m just gonna write.” And guess what? The story was all there in my head and today, Friday, the entire first draft is completed. Now I can create an outline.

I guess we’re all different and what works for one, just doesn’t do anything for another. That’s what I tell myself, anyhow.

Here’s the rough draft of my first few paragraphs. I still have to go back and make changes, add more emotion, and enhance the descriptions, but it is such a blast to write this kind of stuff.

Trish Jackson
Big Bart stomped his feet on the mat and strode in through the door with his brindle Pitbull, Sadie, and Benjamin, the dog he rescued from the dog fighting ring. He wore leathers, and a red, white and blue bandanna wrapped around his head. His biker boots made a loud clipping sound on the old wooden floors.
Several of his biker gang members trudged in behind him, all wearing their leather jackets with ‘Justice Enforcers’ on the back. They nodded at us and headed for the bar.
My dog Stretch stood up from under my legs, stretched, and stuck his nose into Sadie’s ass.
Bart stopped at our table. “Well, if it ain’t the fat girls’ club.” He clamped an oversized hand on my shoulder and I stared at the cut-off black leather glove before I glared at him through narrowed eyes.
“Who are you calling fat? I’m not fat, and neither is LaMercy or Ena.” Fat is a word that’s always made me bristle, and if it was anyone other than Bart, I would probably have done something physical to him.
He held up his hands, palms facing me. “Oh, no. Don’t get me wrong, Twila. Fat is good. What man doesn’t like a little padding? I meant it in a good way.” His gaze strayed from my boobs, to Ena’s and then to LaMercy’s. “You ladies all got curves where women are supposed to have ’em,” he growled in his deep bass voice. “Fat girls rock, man.”
I was at a loss for words. Luckily, Stretch took the attention away from us when Sadie snapped at him and he whined and licked her face.
“Yeah, good girl. You don’t need anyone sticking their cold nose there, do you?” Bart rasped. He turned toward the bar. “What’s a man got to do to get a drink around here?” he said to Gasser, who was standing behind the counter serving the others, with an annoying grin on his face.
“Coming right up,” he said, and slid a 24 oz glass of draft beer across the pitted wooden counter top. Bart grabbed it and swallowed half of it down in one gulp. 
As usual, Jimmie Lewis, the town drunk stood in the corner propping up the bar, and Lilly Belle Groat, the town mattress, who looks like the back side of a bus, sat beside him.
“Maybe we have put on some pounds,” LaMercy, always the practical one said. She was staring at me.
“Yeah, but fat. That’s a big word,” Ena said. 
I took a hard look at my two companions. They actually had put on some weight, and I hadn’t really noticed before.
We all stared at Bart’s ass as he crossed the room to join the others at the pool tables.
“That is one heck of a man,” Ena, the only one of us who was truly single said. “No fat there.”
I knew LaMercy was thinking it too, and so was I. He was one hell of a piece of male flesh.
Gasser, with his coffee-colored skin and dreads stepped around from behind the bar, pulled out a chair at our table, and dropped into it. He still had that irritating grin on his face that meant one of two things. Either he had just farted or he thought something was amusing.
I sniffed, and didn’t detect anything. “What do you think is so funny?” I asked.
“Fat girls’ club,” he glanced across at Bart to make certain he couldn’t hear, and burst out laughing.

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