It depends on your personality and your writing style.
I encourage outlining when writing scripts and novels.
Outlining when diving into a very large project can make the critical difference between having a road map and getting lost and then wondering why much later. And having quite a mess to untangle.
But sometimes it’s good to just write.
Automatic writing is the idea that if you just type, an entity will come through you and speak to you!
Sometimes I say to writers “don’t think, just write” as a way of getting them OUT of their heads and freeing up that writing brain. It’s a good way to override judging your writing.
Sometimes I say it to writers as a way of getting them to write characters who are separate from themselves.
When you THINK about what your character is going to say – I mean, on a granular level – then it’s not really the character talking – it’s YOU.
You have to let go a little bit and let your mind guide you in both the macro (the essence of the scene or moment) and in the micro – what exact words you will be writing.
It’s really interesting when we let go, to see what the meta-mind is really thinking.
Julia Cameron wrote The Artist’s Way and she has a particular methodology called Morning Pages, in which you write three pages of stream of consciousness writing, longhand, every morning. It does not matter what you write.
So much of writing is knowing yourself – your habits, your routines, your limitations, your style, your voice – what turns you on – how you work, what medium you want to write – I have met so many writers who are frustrated because they are trying to fit a round peg through a square hole – write what they think they SHOULD write, not what their instinct tells them.
Avoid Self-Defeating Behavior:
We also can look at other writers who have different writing styes or habits from our own – who seem SO productive and SO great but that’s just not our style. So we TRY to get up every morning at 6am and write for two hours like some friend we know – but maybe you’re a night owl.
I can’t tell you how many screenwriters I have worked with who actually are novelists. And they get SO frustrated, like banging their heads against the wall trying to write in “screenwriting-ese” instead of prose -when – they ARE a prose writer!
Knowing HOW to outline and plan your writing is important. It’s important to have some sort of approach to your writing especially when writing in longer forms.
In a novel, your table of contents (whether you list it or not) is basically your very rough outlining tool.
But it is also important to really access that magical part of your writing mind – to just write without thinking about what you want to say.
Treat yourself to Just Effing Entertain Me: A Screenwriter’s Atlas