Do you outline? If so, what is your method?

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odduck17
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Do you outline? If so, what is your method?

Post by odduck17 » 23 Jun 2016, 20:28

I've always wanted to start writing a novel. After doing some research on how, I still have yet to figure out something. Should I outline? Some people do and some people don't. But, how do I find out if outlining is right for me? Sometimes I find myself too eagered to write the story to outline. Then, when I don't outline, I never finish what I started writing.
So: do you outline? If so why & how?

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KS Crooks
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Post by KS Crooks » 25 Jun 2016, 07:18

For myself there are five key things I have found that help me create an outline.
1) What is the goal. Am I creating a new world, new scenario. What about the situation I’m writing about needs to be explained.

2) Describing characters appearances, showing their personalities, the relationships they have with each other, what do they do for a living, etc. Comparable to a how a real person gets introduced to a different family or the first few times.

3) Where are the characters mentally, emotionally and physically (their location) at the beginning of the story. Where do you want them to be in all of these areas at the end of the story? How will they make it to where you want them to go and how long should it take?

4) What are the obstacles you want the characters to have, whether they be physical, mental or emotional.

5) Using a map. When I create a new fantasy world, I need to know where places are located. For this I make my own map of that world. If my story is set in the real world then I would use a real map. If a character lives in Paris France and is travelling by horse or car to Madrid Spain then the map tells you what to write in terms of the route they take, places they may visit or location to have encounters. A map helps the story write itself.

I set these up in one or two tables. I then state what I want to happen in the first 4 or 5 chapters to start. As needed I add what I want the following chapters to involve. I see writing a story like going on a road trip. I need to know where I'm (or my characters) are starting, where they will end up and some things they will do during the trip. I like to know the major events of my story, but the times between or what happens while the characters go from one location to another are written in the moment. Writing this way for me prevents writer's block. There is still the occasion where I don't know what to write for a section of the story, but I have the option to leave it and write the next section and go back after because I know where the story is going. I never have weeks of not knowing what to write. I often have the opposite feeling, like I'm holding my characters back because I don't write fast enough or set aside enough time for my story. The point is to figure out what works for you and keep the writing fun.

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Post by MaryJones » 27 Jun 2016, 04:58

Yes. I do. Because every writing requires an outline where you can keep your writing perfect. The outline is a base for your writing. You can change depending upon your writing. With the outline, you get an idea how must be story and how can be the climax of the story. Better start with the outline than writing the story without the outline.

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Post by flogan14 » 03 Jul 2016, 16:04

Outlining is very much a personal preference, and I've listened to various authors talk about why they do or do not outline. Some even start without an outline, and after a first draft, then they create the outline to organize what they have. That's an idea if you're feel like starting your story right away but still think an outline might be helpful. Personally, I love the process of outlining (sometimes a little too much, over-outlining has the potential to trap you into a box). But for me the most important part of any story is the characters, so I outline and find out as much as I can about the characters, because once I really know them, it's easier to know what they will do in any given situation. They are more important in my opinion than outlining the exact plot.

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Post by Leigh M Lane » 03 Jul 2016, 16:32

I've written twenty novels, and I've outlined for nearly all of them. Outlining is the best way to ensure your story follows some kind of structure. Structure is important. Without it, you risk building poorly toward your climax and resolution (run-away story).

How I do it: I start with the major plot points I want to write, the scenes already starting to build in my head, and a basic idea of how I want the conclusion to unfold. From there, I imagine the characters and their goals, and then I consider the obstacles that might stand in their way. I make a list of obstacles and their possible solutions. I explore the antagonist(s) and their goals, adding a new list. This will create new plot points.

Turn each plot point into a writing prompt. For plot points that have a lot going on, I'll write a mini-outline to cover the next chapter or two before continuing.

I think about structure while I'm plotting out the story. What story arc do I want to follow? Dystopian? Hero's journey? Romance? The plot points need to come together to fit some kind of structure. There is a difference between following structure and writing cookie-cutter. Aristotle's dramatic structure is a good place to start, as it is basic and open to a lot of creative play. You'll find organizing your plot points by structure will also help you flesh out a solid, cohesive work, pointing you in the right direction when you might otherwise find yourself lost.

Recently, I took a workshop that had students put plot points on index cards, and I used the technique when I wrote my most recent novel (actually completed the first draft just a few days ago). I like using the cards because you can put them all out in front of you, move them around, and really order your plot points effectively. It's definitely how I'm going to continue forward when preparing for my next novel.

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Post by emthomas1 » 28 Jul 2016, 00:11

If you are looking for a more rigid structure or template, you may consider Googling the Snowflake Method. It's similar (and free) to KS Crooks' approach above. I used a modified version of it for my historical fiction and found it more helpful than not, especially for developing character depth - and <i>especially</i> when managing the volume of information attendant to historical fiction. I've also used it to storyboard the next books in my respective series. Definitely not for everyone though - some say it stifles innovation or momentum. That wasn't my experience though.
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Post by DATo » 28 Jul 2016, 02:31

I do not use an outline. I primarily write short stories thus there are limited plots, actions and characters which make it easier to write without the aid of an outline. In my case I start with a basic idea and just let the events evolve. I generally have little problem with the creative side of the project because I seem to have a talent for inventiveness on the fly. I'm not saying my stuff is any good, just that the ideas come to me easily out of thin air as I am writing with no prior planning, thus no need for an outline. If I ever get it into my head to try my hand at a novel this method may, of necessity, have to be changed.
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Post by emthomas1 » 28 Jul 2016, 18:32

What's the longest story you've written DATo?
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Post by Rebeccaej » 05 Sep 2016, 12:41

I'm still really struggling to figure out a method. I didn't outline or pre-write the first draft of my novel at all. For the second draft, I've been doing things like writing down every emotion the character is feeling, then writing a very rough outline of the chapter that organizes which feelings combine in what ways, and how one grows into another.

For another scene, I started by sketching out what each character's motivations were.

Doing things like that has really helped me write more complex characters, by forcing me to think past what the plot requires, and into how real people would behave in those situations.

For a short story that I had very well organized in my head before I started writing, I wrote a more traditional outline that showed how each section grew out of the previous one. That mostly just helped me write faster, because I didn't have to stop and think, "ok, what happens next?" after each section.

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Post by Leigh M Lane » 06 Sep 2016, 09:32

DATo wrote:I do not use an outline. I primarily write short stories thus there are limited plots, actions and characters which make it easier to write without the aid of an outline. In my case I start with a basic idea and just let the events evolve. I generally have little problem with the creative side of the project because I seem to have a talent for inventiveness on the fly. I'm not saying my stuff is any good, just that the ideas come to me easily out of thin air as I am writing with no prior planning, thus no need for an outline. If I ever get it into my head to try my hand at a novel this method may, of necessity, have to be changed.
I typically don't outline my short stories either. I'd say my cutoff is, depending on the story, anywhere between 10,000-20,000 words; anything larger than that needs an outline or the structure just won't be there.

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Post by Serena_Charlotte » 06 Sep 2016, 14:10

I find that outlining makes the novel too rigid and I subsequently lose interest in it. Usually, I just outline the characters themselves in detail, keeping in mind character development, and the basic skeleton. But when I do outline, I find it's easiest to use the Snowflake Method. This involves beginning with a sentence, a short blurb, then expanding it into a paragraph, then into about four pages. Each paragraph will symbolize the beginning, middle, and end. You must also take story progression into the factor and just make it flow.
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Post by Hannah Marie » 01 Oct 2016, 20:50

I'm writing my first novel and without any formal fiction writing training, I've been wondering around this question as well. The idea for my novel came in a series of scenes and I spent months developing them (I only have a few hours to write each week) and my characters before really considering the plot from beginning to end. Now I'm finding it necessary to work backwards and outline my entire plot before moving ahead so I can build the events at an appropriate pace. I'll admit, outlining feels much drier to me than the actual writing. It's not the part I enjoy, but is obviously important to ensure my story is heading someplace worthwhile.

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Post by Timothy Trimble » 06 Oct 2016, 16:17

For anything longer than a short story, I'm all about outlining. My process is:
  • - I write up a brief couple paragraphs describing the story.
    - I create a set of notes for Places, People, Things, Situations - where I place background information as I create the outline.
    - For each chapter, I write a paragraph for each scene in the chapter. Usually 3 to 4 scenes per chapter.
    - By the time I get to the last chapter, I've added enough content to the background notes to support the entire story.
    - Then I start writing.

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Post by Sean Wheeler » 13 Oct 2016, 07:58

I tend to over-outline and plan ahead with later books. And even other media that I would need help with. I think of myself as the CEO of an entertainment company when I'm not yet. And a lot of the outlines are lost in my head.

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Post by DarthMom25 » 13 Oct 2016, 09:46

All of the books that I have not done an outline for have never been finished. The one book that I did do an outline for was! Hahaha. Personally, I need an outline despite how much I don't enjoy writing one. If you're struggling to finish a book when you don't outline, you probably need to have some kind of one.

The way that works for me is very similar to what KS Crooks commented, actually. I usually do a full character interview, though, because I really need to be able to get inside my characters' heads.

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