1. drifter265
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    drifter265 Banned

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    Been writing an outline for months

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by drifter265, Mar 6, 2013.

    I don't know if this is becoming a bad thing or a really freaking good thing yet but let me tell you what's happened:

    I started reading books about thirteen months ago. I'm 21 now. I've read 34 books since then and the reason I started reading was because I wanted to learn how to write. I had grown up on television and movies and since it was easier to get published than to get a TV show or a movie, the story I had in my head, I thought, was going to have to be a book. After I had read my 20th book probably, I thought I was ready to start writing and I began on an outline. It was originally just from the point of view of one character who goes on this adventure/survival kind of thing and it quickly grew into many character's point of view. Now I'm at this point where I have ten characters, each with their own plot, who I want to combine into this one big story. If you can think of an umbrella, the ten characters are starting at the edges and are slowly moving into the middle. The hard part is just somehow making it all blend in smoothly and giving each character their story before they get to the big story in the middle. I've been working on this story in just outlines using ten or fifteen sheets of paper a day for six months trying to get it perfect.

    I started very vague and then got more specific. My first outline, if you will, had a magnification power of one. That was for about two weeks straight working every day on an outline for 4-5 hours a day. Then the outline moved up to a magnification power of ten and more main characters and situations were added. Then I just kept increasing the magnification and getting more specific and making the story perfect. I'm calling them paradigm shifts because all of the outlines are connected but the next paradigm is always longer and more specific and less vague. It's exhausting because I always think, "This is it. I can finally start writing," and then I do and realize that I need to change something and go back to the outline. Then another paradigm shift happens after two weeks of working on the outline and perfecting it and I think that one is it too but it's not. I think at the point I'm at now, I'm probably halfway across the umbrella with all the characters and that I don't have to go back. Again, the hard part is just blending them together and getting them into the situations I want them to get into and making it work. The situations I want them to get into is the reason I'm writing this story. It's the impact the situation has on the character and me personally that I'm trying to make sure it gets to just right.

    I haven't wrote anything except outlines. But the characters are all in my heads. The main plot is there and I'm about halfway with each of the character's B-plots. I'm making so much headway without having to write anything yet. I have always read from people how they don't do outlines or how they hate them and I find that puzzling because that is all I do. I think if I had not kept doing these outlines for the months I've been doing them that the story would have been 100x worse and would of been that vague crap I had at the beginning. But now I have in view the story I had at the beginning when it came into my head. It was just so big at the time that I couldn't write it all down in one sitting. It's taken this long to just get halfway. And it's not some gigantic story, its just a story where I want certain things to happen in it and plot holes keep coming up. The hard part has been trying to fill in these plot holes or having to start over a lot of the time. But now I'm making serious progress and SO glad I didn't just "start writing" or kept working on a first draft because I would have had plot holes come up and would have to scratch it anyway. And I guess it is kind of a big story. It's more like a "Lonesome Dove" if anyone's read that than it is a "Lost."

    Does anyone else have a similar experience? Does anyone else get this obsessed? Does anyone else make outlines the way I do? There not outlines, but more summaries of events.
     
  2. Bdriscoll3
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    Bdriscoll3 Member

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    I don't outline. I just make the characters in my head and start writing, letting the characters flesh out through the story. You can do it any way that works for your though. Although, are you sure you want to just start writing a novel? Without much writing experience, maybe start writing a lot of short stories so you can learn the craft. It would be horribly depressing if you wrote a novel and at the end it turns out to be lack luster.
     
  3. Bimber
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    Bimber Contributing Member

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    I agree also try first to do some short stories get the feeling of it as you most probably wont do justice to your story without some experience first.
    Look at it this way if you dont run everyday you dont go and say tomorrow i'm going to run the big marathon and finish it, as most probably half way through your body will start to give up, same with writing you need to train your brain first. As a story with 10 characters each with their own plot is big project that needs lots of experience.

    What your going through is normal we each start with big ideas, and they keep expanding the more we want to write but thats why experience is needed so you know how to better fix all the plot holes and how to progress the story, and most probably you will be able to come up with better ideas and solutions or you find stuff that you wrote in 2 pages can be said in one paragraph and be more meaningful.

    As for outlining what ever works for you is ok, if you are a heavy outliner thats ok, but i suggest try different approaches just for the experience and see what works best for you, what you did can be called brainstorming and taking notes as you come up with new ideas and workout how the story shall unfold. Do some research even on this forum you can find lots of tips how to do stuff or how to approach a problem and with time you will see the more tools you have in your box the better for you.
     
  4. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    sounds like you just need to start actually WRITING. There's certainly a lot of value in planning and outlining, but if you're always outlining, your book will never get written. There will be no book. So if your goal is to write, sit down and write. It sounds like you've probably planned enough.

    An outline is just that - an outline. It's not a concrete road. Think of how people draw pictures. You sketch out rough outlines for the general shape. When you get down to work, do you simply draw around the outlines? Of course not! You change, you realise this bit wasn't quite right, and you shape it and refine it. An outline is just the rough shape - to refine, changes must always be made, but if you always go back to the outline every time something changes, you'll always be working on the rough shape. Refinement makes it necessary that you're gonna chip away at what used to be there, and etc.

    And outline can only tell you roughly where to go. You can't know if something fits until you actually get writing. A book is living and breathing - you can't tell a plant or a baby how to grow. When you've written the whole thing and you have all your jigsaw pieces together, finally, THEN juggle it again and make it all fit even better. But please, just write and FINISH YOUR ROUGH DRAFT! You need a rough draft - there's nothing to work with but ideas otherwise. Most writers make the mistake of never finishing even a rough draft precisely cus they keep going back, and back, and back.

    If it's just one event or how something is carried out, it shouldn't affect the entire structure anyway. And at this point you shouldn't be changing anything too major. For me, get yourself the ending to your story - once you know how it should end, you'll know which direction to go and if something should change. But it's ok to let things change.
     
  5. punchthedamnkeys
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    I'm somewhat in a similar situation as you, very similar actually. I've always enjoyed writing but I've never actually gone out of way in the past to do so. I like movies and enjoy them very much, but just like you I do understand that you can't exactly become a movie maker one day... but you can do it with writing. That's why I decided to write a novel. I've been trying to come up with this plot probably for the last month or so now, and I've actually come up with one I feel good about. I started with a scene in my head of how I want the story to start, I had no plot or anything, just an image in my head. With no outline or anything, I started trying to write the opening pages to the novel. Once I had maybe a page or two, I got stuck. I realized, at least for me, I needed to know what it would be I would be writing about so I could really portray right off the bat. I moved on to the story outline...

    From there, I started thinking about what THEME I wanted to portray in the novel. Once I figured out the theme, then I started on the story outline. My story outlines are the same as yours, summaries of scenes mostly. I probably worked on the outline for 2 weeks or so, starting very basic with the beginning and several scenarios I wanted to include in the story. From there, I kept adding on to it and really trying to piece them together. I found myself continuosly making changes to the story outline everyday and adding new characters. Right now I'm just under 15 pages into the novel, I'm happy with what I've written so far, but again I find myself unsure about the story outline still. A the moment, I'm continously writing the novel, and working on the story outline at the same time...

    From my observation, I believe writing works differently for everybody. Some can do without a story outline and simply just start writing, but some can't. You really have to figure it out for yourself to see what's best for you. I still don't know how I am myself. I find that simply just writing works for me at times, but having an unfinished story outline in the back of mind always keeps me second guessing while I write. At the same time, I think it really does wonders to my outline by simply writing the novel. I find that when I start writing scenarios in the story down, and really get into the detail with the characters and action of the story, then I start to get ideas about where I want the novel to lead.

    I think with a story like the one you want to tell, you definitely need an outline. It would be difficult trying to somehow connect 10 different story plots to each other without one. Also, I know you've been thinking up this story for quite a while now, but you might want to re-think about attempting this as your first novel. It seems pretty complicated for a first attempt at a novel. If anything, maybe you'd want to keep the same theme but lessen the amount of characters. Having 10 characters with 10 different plots and trying to tie everything in together is going to be a lot of work even if you were a seasoned writer.

    But yes... I think you should start writing now, because like I said earlier... Once you do start writing, there's a good chance that you will want to make changes to your story. There's probably few writers out there who write a complete story line first and sticks with it completely during the writing process without making any changes.

    That's my two cents.
     
  6. drifter265
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    drifter265 Banned

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    Gosh, everyone gave such good responses and I loved them all! I'll admit, I have written SOMETHING and it can be found in the writing workshop. It's the first chapter of one of my outlines and I have already changed that outline to something else. So the one in the workshop is not what the story is going to be anymore. But I did write something of a real first chapter and rough draft to see if I had what it takes and hopefully the reviewers will like it. I'm still going to work on the outline until its finished (I think I'm about 3/4 done with the first book and then I can move to the second book). It's more about going back to the exposition and fusing characters or creating a new scenario that flows other scenarios together to make it better. But all necessary I think. As for the ten characters, they come together pretty quickly one-or-two at a time. It's just the part of bringing them together and making each of what they bring to the story meaningful. Again, thank you guys for your responses!
     
  7. thewordsmith
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    thewordsmith Contributing Member Contributor

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    I can only echo Mckk's words. From what you've said, it sounds as though this has become one of those convenient scenarios of would-be writers. You get to say you are "working on a book" without actually working on the book. Obviously, since you're working on whatever umpteenth phase of your outline, you know how your story begins, what is the problem/hurdle your MC must confront, and approximately how s/he overcomes that hurdle. You have a concept of how the story ends. Okay. That's all you really need. Now start writing!!!!! As Mckk noted, it doesn't matter if your 'outline' changes along the way or takes divergent paths from time to time. That's just your characters coming alive. Let them work with you to bring your novel to life - just don't let them run roughshod over you! You must still maintain control, but letting your characters 'make suggestions' is one way to learn more about them. And you'll never reach that point if all you do is spend your time ' writing outlines'. An outline is supposed to be nothing more than a very rough sketch of what happens in your story. It's not supposed to be a complete breakdown of everything that happens. Think of a picture of a person. You see all of the features, eyes, nose, lips, even finer points like the color , length, and quality of hair; color of eyes, the condition of teeth, skin, etc. Now, take that same picture and imagine an OUTLINE of that picture. All you see is the basic shape. No features, no color, just the most basic shape. This is your story outline. Just the bare bones. It is in the first (2d, 3d, etc.) draft(s) that you add the color and features and fine points) Don't obsess the outline. If you do, you may be the most intense outline writer ever, but you'll never write that book.

    If procrastination is an artform, you could be Michaelangelo. So, to reiterate Mckk's words, "sounds like you need to start actually writing!"
     
  8. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    ditto that ditto!
     

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