Author Topic: Outlines... opinions, thoughts??  (Read 230 times)

Offline michaelnue

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Outlines... opinions, thoughts??
« on: January 08, 2021, 12:00:41 PM »
A novice question, perhaps. But I'm trying to learn and grow as a writer.

The thoughts and ideas for my first two fledgling manuscripts began simply as jotted down notes and paragraphs in Word, before organizing them into a story. I have read a few things on outlines, but those are instructions on "how-to".  I would like to hear what actually works.  Thanks for your help!

Offline Tabris

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Re: Outlines... opinions, thoughts??
« Reply #1 on: January 09, 2021, 06:33:25 PM »
There are so many ways to organize a novel, and it's really going to depend on you.

The two really detailed methods I've seen are Randy Ingermanson's Snowflake Method and the atom-by-atom breakdown in Amy Deardon's The Story Template.

Anne Lamott in "Bird By Bird" is a proponent of just writing whatever and seeing where it takes you.

I like the sixteen beats in Save the Cat because it's a nice structure but gives a lot of freedom. (I've also heard this referred to as tentpolling--I know what happens at certain points, and I just need to figure out how to get from point to point.)

But overall, you'll know your own style best and whether you work best with a lot of organization or by intuition/instinct.

Offline michaelnue

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Re: Outlines... opinions, thoughts??
« Reply #2 on: January 10, 2021, 08:31:25 AM »
Thank you Tabris,  that does help.

I have seen Randy's snowflake method before. I need to re-visit it, and look into your other suggestions as well.

Again, you have been a great help. thank you!

Offline Viddiest

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Re: Outlines... opinions, thoughts??
« Reply #3 on: January 10, 2021, 04:58:03 PM »
Using Scrivener has really helped for me - I don't work chronologically and don't do outlines, but that might suit my genre (Lit Fic) more than others.

Offline jonny_555

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Re: Outlines... opinions, thoughts??
« Reply #4 on: April 07, 2021, 02:31:28 AM »
I start with a visual idea. Two people holding hands by a lake. A specific old car being chased by cops. An old house that people avoid. A bomb-strapped cow that floats down a river. I need something that makes me feel something, and then I start to ask more about why that vision matters. If it sticks with me, I go with it and see where it ends up.

I then start writing with no other planning at all. It keeps me interested, I search for answers along with the characters and it remains fresh and exciting. I sometimes think I'm wreckless, totally wasting a good idea. But when I come back to revision, I'm suprised how it all flows :) Where I was unsure about where to go plot wise, I'd focus on character until I figured it out, and it all balanced well. Even if you plot everything on ten pages, you will still need to write 200/300 pages+ of your book, and those pages will all be written for the first time, plotting or not.

Of course you run the risk of getting stuck. But when that happens, you stop and do other things. The solution often arrives in the middle of the night. Worse case, start over or with something new.

I only plotted/outlined once and that was for a fantasy series that required world building and rules. With so many characters, I had to keep track of them. It all fitted on about five pages of notes (written, notepad,  MS Word). I found it useful for sure, despite how I prefer pantsing, but then I started obsessing. I was trying to explain every single character's life story, why they felt like this, why they lived here, why they had blue eyes. Every little rule I wrote, required further rules behind it. Every location I created, had to be in a larger location, on a planet, in a universe. What controlled the universe? How did the roads between here and there look? Did they pay taxes? Did they eat? Did they wash? Did they go to school? Was it hot there? Why did they speak English? Why don't they do this instead of that. It just never ended for me and those five pages became twenty that looked like they were dyed in ink or painted black. I hated plotting and it almost stopped me from writing. The solution however . . . was to stop plotting and start writing :)

I never finished a piece by plotting. Only by being brave and writing.

When I read the entire Dark Tower series, the pantsing was clear. Some sections in that series are just so off the cuff (characters visiting the writer himself?) but yet, the series is generally liked and even praised for the original turns it takes (mostly made up as it was written). The 'twist ending' I bet bugged King for many years. He never knew how to end it, what it would be, or the explanation behind it. But I could picture him one day getting to the end, wondering, wondering, and then coming up with the ending he had just like that. And it explained everything. He'd had time to ponder, and mull over things. Had that ending been written down in a plot note from the start, it would sound lazy and so predictable on the note sheet. I personally never saw it coming. Had it been mathematically plotted, it would be totally different.

I think it also comes down to your writing. It will either carry you or not.

How about this: try writing two short stories in the same genre. Plot one, and pants one. See which one reads better as a story. The process doesn't need to be smooth sailing either way, but the outcome should be what matters.
« Last Edit: April 07, 2021, 03:06:18 AM by jonny_555 »

Offline Odd John

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Re: Outlines... opinions, thoughts??
« Reply #5 on: April 07, 2021, 02:56:38 AM »
jonny_555: That's always interesting, starting with an image. I've done that with poetry and short stories, but for whatever cause, reason or non-reason, not novel length MS. Somehow with those I always end up starting with a concept, although of course images will follow concepts.

TRANSIT OF VENUS, initially and maybe still a short story, started with the image of -- the transit of Venus. Popped in my head out of nowhere, apparently. Then: "So, what is this about?" Certainly not the "mere" astronomical phenomenon. Hmm... Could it be a love story also? (Didn't turn out this way... ) It morphed into a "cautionary tale" SciFi story. Which I'm still wrestling with...

At the same time, I'm working on two novels, one literary, the other a (murder) Mystery. Both were born of somewhat unusual concepts. Not very bright juggling all three at once I think. Gonna have to get more disciplined for the sake of focus and put at least one of the novels aside. Hate to do it, I'm enjoying them both...

Well, enough "wee hour" ruminating. Back to bed!
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Offline Odd John

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Re: Outlines... opinions, thoughts??
« Reply #6 on: April 07, 2021, 03:15:53 AM »
Ha! Back to QT! Made the mistake of logging on here and now I'm keyed to write... whatever.

Outlines. Never worked from one. At least not a strictly formal one with nearly every plot point plotted out. For short stories I just pants it, don't need an outline. (Does anyone? "The short story is a spotlight, the novel is a searchlight.") But for a novel I need at least some preliminary organization. This takes the form of sketches only. Scene sketches and character sketches, including one for the setting-as-character.

Before typing my first word I always know the Working Title, the Main Scenes, the Main Characters, and many of the sub-settings. At least enough to sketch each. I know the likely sequencing of the scenes, though of course that I think is the most variable element. This may sound like plotting, but it's really not. At this point I only know what the scenes are generally about, not the actual action(s) or plot point happening. Each item fits on a 3X5 card, there are no pages & pages of outlining. I know the concept of the scene(s). Once I feel I have the "just so", right-sized deck of cards for a particular MS, likely 25 or less, only then do I put my itchy fingers to the keyboard.

This approach for me gives me just enough direction and just enough flexibility for a balanced writing process. I guess it's just midway between pantsing and plotting/outlining. Call it... getting dressed before you go to the party!
« Last Edit: April 07, 2021, 03:31:18 AM by Odd John »
My inferiority complex masks my superiority complex. It's very convenient.

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