Here’s a totally different take on outlines from Elmore Leonard, from an interview for The Detroit Free Press. He never uses them.
If you aren’t familiar with Leonard, he is “The greatest crime writer of our time, perhaps ever,” according to a New York Times Book Review. He’s written 44 novels, and 21 of them have been made into feature films starring the likes of Burt Lancaster, John Travolta, Clint Eastwood, Russell Crowe, Charles Bronson, and George Clooney.
Leonard finds outlines to be a hindrance. He says:
I don’t know what a book’s about when I begin it. The first 100 pages I’ll assemble the characters and see who can talk and who can’t, and just start going with that… I’m not even sure what’s going to happen in a scene. I’ll tell myself what should happen in a scene, what the purpose of the scene is so that it will advance the story line, but sometimes good things happen when you veer off. Or a new character comes along, or a character who has a very minor role, he doesn’t even have a name, but I like him, and all of a sudden I’ll give him a name. And he’ll appear again. And again. That happens in about every book.
Leonard writes his books as a series of scenes, as a few other writers I know also do, and “all the scenes are moved by dialogue.”
So, if you aren’t into outlines, you’re in very good company.
Leonard’s complete interview is here. It’s worth reading!