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 Outlining: do you or dont you?

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PostSubject: Outlining: do you or dont you?   Sat May 02, 2009 8:57 am

I've always known that i'm a 'loose' plotter - i like to see where the blog flows etc rather than outlining every little scene. The fact is though that my writing style has gotten me no where fast. So, as many of you know i purchased 'how to write first draft in thirty days' which is all about writing a very comprehensive outline in a month

the authors point is that you sort out all the kinks and plot holes before you sit down to write your 'full draft' (book terminology) which makes a lot of sense. I get a headache thinking of all the work and detail (i'm not a detail person) but i think it would be really good for me to actually make myself sit down and plan.

I like the idea of knowing exactly what is coming so i can concentrate on proper dialogue etc rather than be thinking 'whats going to happen next'/

what do you think?

Do you outline? and how comprehensively do you do it? Would anyone like me to post some of her worksheets (i think theres a link to her website where she has them for free?)

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PostSubject: Re: Outlining: do you or dont you?   Sat May 02, 2009 9:05 am

I have that book, and I like it a lot. But the outlining is a bit too much for me, at least to that degree.

I use two different systems, depending on the story. The first, called the "three act structure" outline splits the plot into three "acts" divided by the first and second "doorways of no return" with the last act ending with the climax.
Basically, I write three or four paragraphs about each third of the story, and at the end I give a sentence or two about the "doorways of no return," meaning big events that would logically divide the story up. And, like I said, the last "act" ends with the climax.

The other structure I use is the "ten scene" outline. In the ten scene outline, I write down the biggest ten scenes (including the climax) and write a paragraph about each. Some people say that this keeps from overplotting.

Sometimes I'll use both systems together, although I usually just stick with the three-act thing.

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PostSubject: Re: Outlining: do you or dont you?   Sat May 02, 2009 9:09 am

Novel, thats really interesting. did you come up with that outlining yourself? the three act sounds really good. Do you go into detail with your characters backgrounds in those acts or is it generally focused on action and then just let characters develop organically?

or do you have your characters well established before outlining?

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PostSubject: Re: Outlining: do you or dont you?   Sat May 02, 2009 9:12 am

I am not a forward plotter. All thoughts here relate to my current WIP, by the way.

My extent of outlining is to know what motivates a particular charcter when they say/do something, and how that will be revealed in a few chapters time. I know roughly what's happening for the next few chapters (which will be a few thousand words), and I know some of the big events that will happen later on. I also know the reasons for what's happening at the moment. For instance, a main plot point is that there is a ghost, and my MC (Sally) is trying to work out why it's haunting what it is, and why it's suddenly shown up now. I know the answer to both these things, and that gives me material for lots of chapters.

So, while I know the main things, I don't really know the little bits that join it up. And I like not knowing. It means that as we go along, if a character makes a chance remark, and suddenly we need to have another scene added in, I can do that. It means I can be surprised by what my characters do.

Another thing I like about not planning, is something I learned from my previous novel-thing. When it got to the last few chapters, there wasn't room for the characters to go for walks any more. I knew everything that had to happen, and what order. And it became such a struggle for me to put those words down on paper. I think it was because, I knew what was going to happen, so it wasn't interesting. If someone told you the ending to a book you were part way through, would you still want to read the rest? Maybe eventually, but there wouldn't be the same drive to go forwards any more. And that is my problem with outlining - I feel like I already know the whole story, and the ending, so therefore what's the point in writing it.


I'm going to have to stop there, before I make this giant post any longer! Laughing

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PostSubject: Re: Outlining: do you or dont you?   Sat May 02, 2009 9:16 am

I got the basic ideas for those outlining structures through reading writing reference books, but I kind of twisted them to fit my purposes.

I generally know my characters pretty well before outlining, through my obsessive and OCD character profiling methods. Although there are cases when I don't know them so well and I develop them through writing. It really depends on the story -- with The Surface of the Deep I gave a lot of emphasis to the plot when I did my outline because I knew my characters very, very well. With The Enigma, I focused on characters in the outline because I had a pretty good idea where the plot was going so I didn't need too much written down to direct me.

And I understand what Dae means about knowing the ending and not wanting to finish. That's normally not a problem with me because of the way I outline -- I don't add in all the bits of dialogue or any minor details or anything. I just kind of say what's going to happen. This doesn't make me want to stop writing because I want to write it so I can read how everything's going to play out and how the intricacies are going to tie in together.

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PostSubject: Re: Outlining: do you or dont you?   Sat May 02, 2009 9:24 am

See Dae, i would be very similar in the way you plot. but with my WIP i know the general plot of the story but i don't know what events have to occur for my story to get from a to b and then onto c.
Thats why i'm considering this intensive outlining, although i'm half afraid that a] my mind will go blank b] suck the fun out of it c] stiffle my natural way of doing things (messily)

See my problem is that i have a general idea of all my characters and i have an idea of what i think should happen but i haven't been able to fill in the other parts. Like for example, i was going to have my MC blind, now i'm thinking of creating a little sister who will be blind and the 'oracle' but i don't know. Not to mention i'm going back on forth on what type of world i'm building. - i think i need to tie myself down, you know?

I have an idea of the big things, like characters etc. (except for my MC which i'm struggling with) and their motivations and i've gotten a grasp of the mythology of my world too.

ugh just feels like ALOT of WORK


Novel, I tried to start character profiles (and i'm going to again) but when i did it the first time i really got muddled up with it, (i think it was due all the stress of my coursework as well). In regards to endings. Thats a big problem for me. In all of my other stories (FF) it was always the ending that i visualised. I think the problem is that i have no ending in mind for this WIP to drive towards or set up. sorry i'm venting Laughing

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PostSubject: Re: Outlining: do you or dont you?   Sat May 02, 2009 9:26 am

I guess my 'outlining' for my last story was a bit like that, Novel.

I always knew that Sally would find a way to get rid of the creature she let escape. I was about half way through when I suddenly realised 'She'll split up with Matt at the end'. And I knew they would get rid of the bad vampires eventually. I didn't know any of the details about how they would do that.


I've started to wonder recently if my planning method is perhaps related to the fact that my stories (both short stories and my novels) always seem to be character driven, rather than plot driven. Therefore, the plot doesn't really play such an important part. The development of the characters, as they learn more about themselves and I learn more about them, becomes a big part of the plot.

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PostSubject: Re: Outlining: do you or dont you?   Sat May 02, 2009 9:33 am

Thats interesting Dae. I mean is there a 'type of outlining' for the

a] plot

b] character

focused novel?

I'm definitly character driven but i really love a good cliffhanger. I remember when i wrote FF i loved leaving off with a cinematic 'fade to black' Laughing

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PostSubject: Re: Outlining: do you or dont you?   Sat May 02, 2009 9:37 am

I have only outlined for one story so far. I don't like outlining but it does help if there are certain things in my story I don't want to forget but most likely will (which can usually change the story).

But when I outline I basically put down the name of the chapter, then I put down the hook for that chapter in either a short sentence or a small paragraph. Sometimes a little bit of dialogue shows up in there because that is an important conversation that needs to happen. I have never been known to really follow writing techniques.

As for now though, my current story I am working on is not a story I can outline with. It's a story that I really just have to wait and see what happens as I go--which has worked so far for me. I've gotten to know my characters extremely better this way and sometimes I get the best lines from writing from the seat of my pants.
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PostSubject: Re: Outlining: do you or dont you?   Sat May 02, 2009 9:44 am

emilycross wrote:
Thats interesting Dae. I mean is there a 'type of outlining' for the

a] plot

b] character

focused novel?

I don't know, really, but I would think there would be. Then again, I'm sure plenty of people who write character driven novels can plot out each little development in the personalities of their characters.

gobblegobble wrote:
I don't like outlining but it does help if there are certain things in my story I don't want to forget but most likely will (which can usually change the story).

I do that. There are little bits of information that I have to write down, because I know from experience that things I 'couldn't possibly forget' often get forgotten. Wink

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PostSubject: Re: Outlining: do you or dont you?   Sat May 02, 2009 9:48 am

Another thing that I'll do when I don't want to do a big outline is I'll just write out a series of questions and answer them. For example:

Who is my main character?

What does he/she want?

What's in his/her way?

Why does he/she want this so bad?

Etc. From theire I'll either just start writing or go on to write the outlines.

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PostSubject: Re: Outlining: do you or dont you?   Sat May 02, 2009 9:51 am

Novel - that is so simple but makes perfect sense. Laughing sometimes i wonder do i 'over think' everything too much

Gobble - thats exactly how i usually would 'outline' - a scene pops into my head and i write aorund it = chapter

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PostSubject: Re: Outlining: do you or dont you?   Sat May 02, 2009 6:38 pm

I write fanfiction, mostly, and it starts with an idea for a single scene, and then I write the entire story around that scene and 'wing it'. Often this gets me into trouble, as the characters start acting with a will of their own, and take the story in often unpredicted directions.

Eversong is my first... 'big work' that I actually intend to publish, and I've outlined the first novel entirely, and most of the second, and will get into the third as soon as the second is done, and I figure out a way for Vicky to overcome the most powerful thing I could possibly imagine. I know what the major conflict is (three extra-terrestrial beings bent on world domination, because their own planet has become uninhabitable) and what the minor conflict is (the two main characters have been dancing around one another since the first third portion of the first novel, but have yet to make it anywhere significant in their romance, and how the devil are they going to do this while evil creatures are trying to take over their world?)

I generally don't outline my fanfics, as I said. I'm outlining Eversong (even going so far as to create a time-line, detailing characters that never even make it into the books) so that my characters don't suddenly steal a bumper car and fly to Pluto (in the words of Mami-san, who warned me that it was possible.) and so I know basically what points to cover in each chapter so that nothing gets left unresolved or left behind, and the entire story wraps up into one neat little package by the end.
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PostSubject: Re: Outlining: do you or dont you?   Sat May 02, 2009 9:54 pm

I am with you author_in_progress, all of my fanfic work comes from one scene, usually some kind of my own made up mythology and then it goes from there.

As to anything that involves me WIP I am more of a loose outlining person. I hate being told this is how you outline here are all of these forms and questions to answer. Thus I let the characters start talking or I look up the town that the story takes place in, and then it all starts flowing. Music, pictures, characters get excited and they start talking it's really fabulous. All of this gets compiled in a notebook and then I have this history without being trapped in, it's exactly my kind of outline.
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PostSubject: Re: Outlining: do you or dont you?   Sun May 03, 2009 1:56 am

Author & Tepid - i'm the exact same, all of FF came from one scene i envisioned. e.g. in 'when the whispers turn to screams' it was edward losing control from hearing too many voices in the canteen which made me start that fic, and i really enjoyed the process of writing that way.

but i think like you said author, WIP needs an outline of some type (or a load of background info) cause FF already have all the rules and character bios well established.

hmmmm i definitly need to get my 'world' in order Laughing

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PostSubject: Re: Outlining: do you or dont you?   Sun May 03, 2009 4:12 am

I don't plan my fanfics because they are usually only one-or-two-shots. I get the inspiration for them from the books, from a remark one of the characters makes, or wondering what so-and-so was thinking/doing during that scene.
I don't really need to plan them, partly because they are only a couple of thousand words long, so I know what's going to happen. And partly because the books have already specified most of what's happening - I only have a small window to work in.

I did kind of plan 'Screaming in the Silence'. Although I never got that far, I always knew what was going to happen in the end. I knew there would be two sort of 'halves' to the story. I pretty much knew what the main events were that had to happen in each chapter.

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PostSubject: Re: Outlining: do you or dont you?   Sun May 03, 2009 4:28 am

Aw its only when you work on original stuff do you realise how handy FF writing is (not dissing or anything), in regards to having all the ground work done for you.

But that groundwork is what makes a story a novel i guess.

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PostSubject: Re: Outlining: do you or dont you?   Sun May 03, 2009 6:14 am

I noticed that, too. XD I complained, once, that I wished someone else were writing Eversong so that I could simply write the fanfics for it, but you're right.

And sometimes the groundwork can be fun. I enjoy the work involved in 'why is it like this?' and 'how does that happen?'
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PostSubject: Re: Outlining: do you or dont you?   Sun May 03, 2009 12:04 pm

You guys make some good points. I have a friend at school who writes tons of fanfiction (and that's ALL she ever writes) who was talking to me several months ago about how she thought writing a novel might be fun. I told her to go for it, but she burned out after a week. She started talking about how I must be some sort of god or something because there was no way she could write a novel. She said it was too hard because there was nobody telling her how the characters were supposed to act or what direction the story was supposed to go in.

Me, I can't write fanfics. Partly because it feels to me like I'm ripping off other people's characters, but partly because I love doing the whole outlining and groundwork thing. I do have an ff.net account up and running (with a fake name) so that it's ready when I want to shamelessly write and post fanfics for my own books. Laughing

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PostSubject: Re: Outlining: do you or dont you?   Sun May 03, 2009 3:20 pm

For outlines, I like them. I do them very vaguely. I usually only do a few outlines at a time, since even I don't know what will happen next until I write a few chapters before it. For my outlines, I just write a few bullets for each chapter, outlining the beginning, end, main events, and how the character feels about what happened. That's my starting point to start writing. I can't sit down and outline everything I'm going to do. I've tried that, and I've changed my outline so many times that it was completely different from my original.

My answer: Do a basic outline and be flexible to it changing.
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PostSubject: Re: Outlining: do you or dont you?   Sun May 03, 2009 3:27 pm

gobblegobble wrote:
But when I outline I basically put down the name of the chapter, then I put down the hook for that chapter in either a short sentence or a small paragraph. Sometimes a little bit of dialogue shows up in there because that is an important conversation that needs to happen. I have never been known to really follow writing techniques.

You already know the name of the chapter and the hook? Wow. @_@ I wish I could just get that kind of information as soon as I write down the outline. I usually wind up naming the chapter once I finish writing it in full. But I sometimes do a little dialogue if there's an important conversation, too.

@Dae: I do the same! :3 When you know what's going to happen, it's not as interesting. It's like reading a book that you've already read. Yes, it's still good, but it's just not exciting anymore. :/

@Novel: I have a friend like that too! She roleplays (for those who don't know of it, it's basically going back and forth writing a few paragraphs and sending it to the other person) and writes short stories (max six pages) but she said she could never write a novel. She has a short attention span. Razz

P.S. Sorry for the double post D8
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PostSubject: Re: Outlining: do you or dont you?   Sun May 03, 2009 3:39 pm

I think it's how you approach fanfiction that will determine how successful one is at creating your own worlds. (pardon me if I go a little off the original topic of this thread but I think there is something to be said about fanfic). When I started writing fanfics I was completely inept at writing, I admit it. When they said you had to have 500 words a chapter I thought are you nuts! That's practically a novel! (oh how silly of me). I joined a site that provided a great deal of writing information from character charts (which I still have even if I no longer use them) to articles about how to build plot, explication and such, but more importantly it taught me how to find my narrative voice.

Yes, you have part of the ground work but it's staying within that ground work that becomes the tricky part. For me I write fanfics, currently, that take place in New York City, I've never been to New York so I am always on the look out for interesting or cool places where people hang out there. I create new characters and have to figure out how they fit into the mythology of the book, which usually means I have to come up with a new twist on the mythology of the book. Which requires more research into the actual source, aka the book. Even Cannon characters are not fully disclosed in book, so you go back and start to fill in the gaps you are not specifically told. So it becomes me doing a great deal of "research" and figuring out how to put it all together because I like to say that all of my stories no matter how far fetched have a basis in the books they started in.

Basically what I am getting at is that fanfiction can, if you let it, teach you how to write. I personally now average about 3000-4000 words a chapter which is a far cry from the 500 I had to pull from my fingers when I first started. With a little push from my first host site I learned how to write description and make my chapters flow better. I have back stories and new ideas that really get my mind running and sometimes at the end of the day it's just nice to go back to those premade characters and have a little fun in someone else's world.

Alright back to the topic at hand: I think outlining is like writing, your process is completely your own. Sometimes characters don't want to tell you their favorite color of ink or it changes with the weather, there is no set path, no right or wrong, there is only what works for you and sometimes finding that is an adventure in and of itself. I personally loathe outlines, there is a burning distaste for that process that has worked its way into my blood. But I realize for some people they outline religiously, and follow it and sometimes they scrap it half way through.

(sorry for the severe off topic-ness of the first part but I have a special place in my writing heart for fanfics.)
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PostSubject: Re: Outlining: do you or dont you?   Sun May 03, 2009 6:00 pm

Confession: I don't know how to outline... All I can think of is this type of outline from research papers.

I.
A.
1.
2.
3.
etc etc

Help me? I feel like this is something I should know a bit better, but I've been a poetry and short story/stream of consciousness writer for... ever. /weep
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PostSubject: Re: Outlining: do you or dont you?   Mon May 04, 2009 4:01 am

Ok i'm posting this on character threads too, but here is an excellent post by a very established writer (think she's published 46 novels across a load of sub genres) - http://pbackwriter.blogspot.com/2009/05/ten-with-character.html its to do with organising stuff for character info, but she gives links to free stuff like evernote - which compiles information and synchronises all your book infor. i haven't done it, but gona look into it when i have time and look at these links too.

what you guys think?

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Editing the First draft
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Number of posts : 251
Age : 33
Location : La La Land
Job/hobbies : My job is being a Mom and My hobby is writing.
Humor : "Due to budget cuts, the light at the end of the tunnel will be turned off until further notice!"
Registration date : 2009-03-04

PostSubject: Re: Outlining: do you or dont you?   Mon May 04, 2009 1:10 pm

missjulie wrote:
Confession: I don't know how to outline... All I can think of is this type of outline from research papers.

I.
A.
1.
2.
3.
etc etc

Help me? I feel like this is something I should know a bit better, but I've been a poetry and short story/stream of consciousness writer for... ever. /weep

That's how I used to try and outline my stories. It was really hard to do and made my story not so good. That's how though I switched to the way I do it now.

IE

Chapter One--
Claire meets Sam and wonders why he won't speak to her. Then Claire has strange dream where her family dies and Sam is there laughing at their deaths. Claire wakes up in cold sweat.

That's how I do outlines and actually that one line there gave me another story idea--dang it. That would make it story number 8.
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