Tuesday, April 5, 2011

D is for Dang Outlining

I know I'm stretching the alphabet here...

For THE SWEET SPOT, I didn't outline. I had a short story that evolved into a longer story and then a novel. The short story is (for the most part) what is now chapters four and five in the novel. It took a long time to fill in the first three chapters and then finish the book. I didn't totally pants the thing--I did some character spreadsheets, and I spent some time writing loglines and synopses (snowflake method, anyone?) But mostly I just wrote.

I outline for nonfiction--and I have a hard time calling the outlining part of the work "writing." But I'm trying to get better at that. Because it's equally as important as the actual writing. For my work-for-hire I'm required to submit an outline before the first draft. And it is supremely important to get that first "go ahead" from the editor. Or "try this here." Or "I'm sure you're going to do this, but don't forget..."

For my next fiction WIP, I'm thinking I need to work more quickly. Five years per novel just isn't going to cut it if I want an actual writing career. Based on the recommendation of Amy Sue Nathan, I picked up FIRST DRAFT IN 30 DAYS by Karen S. Wiesner. It promises to help you craft an indepth outline that can double as your first draft. In. 30. Days.

Having read the first few chapters, at the very least, this book should help with brainstorming basic plot points and character analysis. I'm horrible at organization, so I think it will help me with that as well. As long as I stick with it.

Sticking with it. And really the important part is Butt In Chair, Hands on Keyboard, right? As long as I'm physically writing, whether it's an outline or a stinky first draft, progress is being made.  So sticking with the outline, or changing gears midstream, or pantsing the daylights out of a scene or chapter. It doesn't really matter what method or style you use. As long as it works for you.

Tips for writing the basic outline (and the page I borrowed the graphic from). Very basic outline.

So, show of hands, do you outline?

18 comments:

Laura Pauling said...

Eh, outlining isn't for me. Right. I've heard a lot of good things about that book. Hope it helps!

Kristine Asselin said...

Yes, but Laura, you do a lot of pre-writing research that I would consider outlining. Maybe not in the traditional sense, but still. :)

Marisa Hopkins said...

*raises hand* I outline. I keep it loose and open to change, but I need to know how my story ends before I can begin. I just can't write unless my characters have direction, or I end up aimlessly wandering and end up cutting hundreds of pages :P

Dang outlining... perfect use of the letter D! :)

Alicia Gregoire said...

I tried that 30 days book and I couldn't do it. I've used Holly Lisle's note card technique and that has been helping me a lot. One day I'll have an in depth outline. (We have to have goals, right?)

Talli Roland said...

I outline the major turning points so I have something to drive towards, and then I fill in the blanks as I write!

MG Higgins said...

I've promised myself I'm going to outline my next WIP. Maybe that's why I've spent the past two years revising old manuscripts. :)

Monica Mansfield said...

I outline very loosely. Just a page or two. I describe the main characters and the major plot point. After that it's all pantsing. It's my goal to someday have tighter, more detailed outlines before I start writing but it's a distant goal.

:)

Laura Marcella said...

I definitely outline! I love planning out the story and characters. The outline is there as a guideline, but I don't necessarily stick to it. Often the characters and story will evolve in a way I hadn't planned and then I just go with it!

Jo Schaffer said...

I only use a very loose outline-- mostly take sticky notes of things that happen or scenes, dialogue bits etc as they come to me.
So far it works for me-- as long as the main ideas of the story are sort of in my head the characters make the rest happen. (=

Cambria Dillon said...

I *want* to be an outliner...but I'm afraid I'm much more of a pantser by nature. Every time I've tried the hardcore outlining, I end up either skewing completely away from it or ditching the whole story.
But with my current WIP, I realize I'll have to do some sort of formal outline because I have a lot of threads going with 2 POVS and I have to know where everyone is or the story will fail miserably.
So I'm trying my hand with Scrivener for outlining and drafting. I'll let you know how that goes!

Jonathon Arntson said...

The Snowflake Method! W00t!

I wish I was an outliner...I really really do. But I am not. Yet.

Ansha said...

I'm a total outliner. That's why you love me right? :) In my head when the story is developing I usually 'see' the highlights of the story.. you know all the climaxes all the cool scenes. So it's pretty easy to use those to start the outline. And it's kinda fun to fill in the blanks!

Kristine Asselin said...

Everyone has a different method! But it's all about finding what works and sticking with it. Thanks to all for commenting today!

sandy axelrod said...

Most of what I write is a food memory, a travel story or a recipe. I usually make brief notes but not really sure you could call it an outline.

Theresa Milstein said...

I'm a panster!

D is for Dang Outline - great title!

Jennifer Shirk said...

I outline--LOOSELY--but there is some kind of skeleton to a story there. It does help me see the "big picture" as I write. :)

Michelle Julian said...

I outline as I go. Really I'm just making notes of where I'm headed and things I don't want to forget.

Jules said...

Actually, I've had pretty good luck with the snowflake method too! For my last MS, I ended up with a 200-cell long spreadsheet of scenes! To be honest, I never looked at it once after I finished, but it really helped get everything organized in my brain.

I think the best thing about outlining is it can help the first draft go much faster. In my new WIP, I went back to winging it without an outline, and it's taking FOREVER!