April 20, 2011

Start with an Outline and Other Absurdities

Posted in Outlines, Uncategorized tagged , at 4:07 am by Rebecca Hein

In music, to plan a phrase is to kill it. Even in a string quartet or orchestra, where the group must be unified and therefore all members must know when to play loud or soft, or to accelerate the tempo or not, there’s still room for spontaneity.

Writers are often told to start with an outline. Great advice if you can take it, but your most lively ideas aren’t likely to emerge in logical sequence. Therefore, starting with an outline is most likely to set up a struggle you could avoid if you wrote your first few drafts without expecting more than a collage of ideas.



  1. Thanks so much for this, Becky!

    If I could plan my outbursts of tears in advance, or flashes of tenderness, rage and remorse, then I could probably outline what I think I’m going to write and then stick to my outline. But if my Muse says “outline this in advance so you won’t lose track of any of the subsidiary points,” then outline I will, expecting, however, to have my intended structure morph many times before I put my pen down. As in my composition of this simple comment.


    • Rebecca Hein said,


      Sounds like outlines work for you at least sometimes…Sure, if I could get outlines to work for me, things would probably work better. But most of my ideas don’t seem to go that way…Thanks for contributing.


  2. In most cases, I disagree. I’ve often had an idea of an article in my head, I’ve typed it out on my PC, and new ideas sometimes are sparked by the current ideas. Thanks to the ability of word processors, I can cut, paste, or delete without messing everything up. I used to compose much the same way when I recorded my electronic music. I’d lay down a bed track and then add bits to it that worked with the bed track. I’ve found that entirely improvised writing hasn’t produced as many good results as the outlined articles have.


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