I’ve adopted a new writing and exercising schedule that seems to be paying off, since I managed to complete the first draft of a new short story last week. The process was made significantly easier, however, by the fact that I actually wrote an outline before I started writing.
While I have a detailed outline for the novel I’m working on, I haven’t constructed much of an outline for my short stories before. Usually I just have an idea and a series of convoluted notes, and a basic story structure, and then I start writing and see what happens. My thinking was always that a short story doesn’t require as much outlining as a novel because of its length and complexity – and I couldn’t have been more wrong.
For this new story, I completed a sequence of events, outlines of each of the characters, and then did something really new for my writing practice: I started asking questions. When I got feedback for “Disconnected” not too long ago, a couple of readers asked very pointed questions about the specifics of the story: why is this character doing this? Why are these people standing here? So I decided to do the same thing myself. Before even starting to write, I wrote down questions related to my world, my characters, events before the story, and so on. It helped incredibly. Writing the story became so much easier because I had really thought about it, inside and out, and so I wasn’t stumbling over particular lines because I had the background knowledge to fill in the gaps I had left in my outline.
The best part, though, is that the story seems more vibrant to me because of my planning. Instead of just imagining the basics of a story, I imagined an entire world, and then fit a story into it.
I’ll be doing this for future stories, including flash fiction, and I suggest you do the same, fellow writers. Planning, apparently, goes a longer way than I thought.