Whenever I think of outlines, one of my English teachers always comes to mind. He would require us to write an outline for everything, whether it was an essay or a creative story. He would even check to make sure that we did them, and would grade us on whether we had the outline or not. I suppose he wanted to make sure that we were thinking about what we would write instead of diving into the assignment headfirst.
That being said, I really, truly, hate outlines.
Why? I suppose it would have to be because of the solidity of them. My writing is fluid, first and foremost. I don't believe in forcing out ideas just for the sake of writing. The ideas have to flow easily, without me forcing myself to write what I think people would like. To me, when I write something in an outline, it feels final. Once it's down on paper, I feel like I have to include this idea in the story, even though I don't want to. Teachers have tried telling me that I can change the outline, but it still feels like I have to write what I put on my outline.
Personally, I rather like diving into things headfirst. When I'm writing a story or essay, I'll have a few ideas in my head as to where I want to go with it, but they're just that: ideas. I'm not committed to any one of them until I put them on paper. When I actually begin writing, I'll keep these ideas in mind, but sometimes, my writing will take me in an entirely different direction than what I had originally planned. This is usually a selling point for teachers as to why students should use outlines, but I disagree. Just because the story becomes something different doesn't necessarily mean that's a bad thing. It just means that it's not what I had originally planned.
A method story-planning that seems to work for me is that I'll have several scenes mapped out in my mind in detail, but the way I get from point A to point B is completely blank. This includes bits and pieces that I really like for the story, but still leaves room for me to be surprised. It also helps me when I have writer's block: I'll start writing one of these particular scenes (often out of sequence with the rest of the story), and that breaks the floodgates and allows my creativity back.
If I feel like I really, truly, need to write down an idea for fear of forgetting it, I STILL won't do an outline, per se. I'll go on a site called Polyvore instead. Polyvore, in a nutshell, is a site that allows you to make "sets" with images you get off the internet. For instance, this is a set I made as an example:
Click the link. You'll see what I'm talking about. Pretty awesome, huh?
I'll use these sets as an outline, and I'll create a collection of them on Polyvore, putting them in order, so that I can go through the major scenes in sequence if I so chose. This is the only form of outlining I will ever choose to use. Period.
So are outlines really necessary? What unconventional method of outlining do you use (if you use any)?