Welcome to my self-indulgent location for the stories (good and bad) that I can't prevent myself from writing. All comments and criticisms welcome. I post on Tuesdays and Saturdays.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Art of the Outline

I used to fancy myself as a pantser. I truly did. Or at least about here:

I always had some kind of plan for the stories: a beginning, a couple crucial middle points, and a vague idea of the end. But after leaving point A, I could have gone through both Nova Scotia and Dubai before getting to point B. Editing then involved reducing the Trans-Siberian railroad trip to a transcontinental flight (no snacks included; please pay $25 per checked luggage item), and maybe my characters didn't really NEED to go to Dubai. I'll clip that and keep it for a later WIP.

This lasted until NaNo, I think. I was so excited to start on that new piece, I spent days outlining, character sketching, etc. I'm glad I did, because I don't think I would have finished NaNo otherwise. I needed that outline to remind me of where else I needed to go, and which overpriced-with-hidden-fees transcontinental flight could more easily get me there.

Then I started working on this latest project of mine. Can I just say for the record that my brain won't let it go ANYWHERE without an outline? So, what have I been doing this week? Well, besides avoiding my WIP since I don't know where it's going, I've started outlining (and then because I was excited about the outline taking shape, apparently now I'm blogging. Productive, huh?).

My goal for this week is to get this amorphous little outline into something resembling the outline I used for NaNo, so that by next week I will be less afraid of this new WIP.  I'm really happy with what few ideas have solidified in my mind regarding this WIP, but fumbling in the dark isn't my style anymore. I'm not sure if it's because I've changed as a writer—I did have that writing class last semester that could have also contributed to this change—or if it's particular to this WIP. Either way, I need this outline whipped into shape.

If you plan, how do you plan? What's your strategy for developing the sequence of events?

If you pants, how do you learn to trust your characters with each new WIP that they'll get you to the end in a decent fashion?


Heidi said...

I'm leaning more towards the planning side, but I haven't found a great method yet. What do you do for an outline? How detailed are you?

LTM said...

I like to just open a word document and write the whole idea I've got out. Start to conflict to resolution... then I have at least something to keep me on track when I go all panster~ ;p

Hart Johnson said...

You know... I went on that EXACT same trip. I started with a few points... I don't exactly OUTLINE yet, but there are definitely no pants involved. Especially for the mysteries--I plot a LOT of it--have to... (I still love that storyboard method, though I never formalized it for my 2nd mystery)

Jan Morrison said...

start all projects as a pantser then move slowly and painfully into planner. I don't outline but I do a sort of story board - a mindmap and beat sheets.

RosieC said...

How I outlined:
For NaNo, I used Scrivener, and took notes for each of the chapters. I kinda made stuff up as I went along, and I added to the outline as I wrote, but the basics were there already to keep me on track. Basically, it was just a small paragraph for each chapter with the basics of what I wanted to happen.

The problem with this one is that I have three separate outlines of different parts of the story, and they all end too early since I know the story continues. So not only do I not have the ending worked out, I also can't seem to mesh my outlines :( It's a sad sad day.

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