1. JohnNoZ
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    JohnNoZ Member

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    Do you outline?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by JohnNoZ, Feb 26, 2009.

    Do you create outlines before writing? If so, what is your process for moving from ideation to outline? If not, why not?
     
  2. Kas
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    Kas Contributing Member

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    I carry the general outline for my novel in my head. However, when I start a new chapter I usually make a bullet list of everything I need to include in that segment. It helps to organise my thoughts and get me focused for the session. It also helps me to quickly get into character when switching perspectives. So I guess I just outline as I go... The big picture is solid - it's not going anywhere, so it doesn't really need an outline as of yet.
     
  3. Penny Dreadful
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    Penny Dreadful Senior Member

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    Meh, I don't even completely plan my work out before I start. I get a feel for the characters, usually a point A and point B then just go at it. Sometimes when I'm stuck I do, however, make index cards. I also have all sorts of specific lines/chunks of story pasted in word files labled ___pieces, jotted in the margins of notebooks, and scribbled on the backs of assorted bills.

    It would probably be easier to make an outline, but it's not the way my mind works. Plus, knowing how the story is going to progress usually leaves me bored of it.
     
  4. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    The first novel, I didn't outline, I just made notes from time to time. I had a clear idea of the chracters and many scenes in my head. BUT--the plot started to run away with me, tying up loose ends was a nightmare, keeping track of where all the characters were (there were a lot!) was difficult, and there were many other weaknesses, particularly with the pace, that a good plan would have prevented.
    The second novel I'm writing, I was determined not to make the same mistake, so I've spent nearly 6 months planning, doing spreadsheets, doing charts by scene etc. Now I'm getting sick of the whole project. I'm timid about getting to grips with the actual writing of it, afraid it doesn't have this or that.
    So I guess the best thing, for me at any rate, is to find a happy mixture of the two approaches. I would certainly never just start writing with it 'all in my head'. I'd have to have at least a basic plan.
     
  5. Unsavory
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    Unsavory Active Member

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    Outlines are very difficult for me. I've attempted doing them several times, but it seems that outside of a few vague ideas, the only way I can truly decide where I'm going is to begin the actual writing process and see where it goes. It's problematic because I end up with continuity errors and loose ends, but it works out when I rewrite.
     
  6. iolair
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    iolair Active Member

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    I outlined my first attempt at a novel in detail. It was disastrous for me, spelling the end to my creativity and inventiveness as I was writing with the story. I ended up abandoning the story after three beautifully edited chapters.

    Now I'm first-drafting on my second attempt at a novel, and am past halfway. I had no outline, just a vague idea of where the story was going. I did, however, make sure I had planned in great detail the characters, settings and situations for the start of the story. This method is working much better for me.

    I am writing outline in retrospect to help me keep track of what I've already written.
     
  7. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    LIke Kas, I don't do it on paper. As long as I can answer three questions about the story, I'm good: What do the characters want? What's getting in the way? How is it all going to turn out? Regardless of how you want to plan, these are things you need to know unless you want to end up like Tolkien. If what I've heard is true, he had very little idea of where he was going with it, and started over every time he got stuck.
     
  8. Aeroflot
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    Aeroflot Senior Member

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    This is what happened to me. I started writing a long short story without plotting and it ended up in the middle without any route to continue. Then I plotted it and I didn't want to write the story anymore.

    So now I usually write short stories all in one sitting and then rewrite it a week later after it's not so fresh in my head. I feel short stories are too short not to be spontaneous.
     
  9. Chad Sanderson
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    Chad Sanderson Member

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    I feel the same way. Erik King, a very skilled Southern-boy-style writer told me that a good story has "already been written" in your head, even if you yourself don't know it yet. It kind of makes sense. I've found that the best writing, for me anyway, usually comes when I just let go and do it, as long as I've got some kind of general idea. I think your brain works a lot faster than you know.
     
  10. tehuti88
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    tehuti88 Contributing Member

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    I don't outline because I like to be as surprised by story events as the reader is. I did outline a novel once, which kept it on track and helped me finish it quickly, but the writing wasn't nearly as fun because I knew everything important that was going to happen ahead of time. I write serials now, with no word limit, so I like to just discover the story as it comes along. (Not to say that I don't know ANYTHING that's going to happen--I never plunge into a story with no idea of what I want to write. I mull my stories over a LONG time before writing, so I have some general ideas, and usually know the beginning and end, but there are also lots of surprises.)

    When I did outline, I just jotted down the events I knew were going to happen, put them in order, then looked for gaps in the plot and brainstormed to fill them in. I made a chronological list of events. I then summed up each scene with a sentence or two, and there was my outline. I just started writing from there.

    I might take up outlining again should I get back to work on my novels, but I have no use for it with novellas/short stories/serials. I like the excitement of discovery. Keeps the writing fresh.
     
  11. Gone Wishing
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    Gone Wishing Contributing Member

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    I don't outline, as such, I more have directions that I want the story to take. I find the directions consistently shift, though, so I don't map anything out on paper. The closest I would come to that are brainstorming sessions, where I usually write down everything that comes to mind (and I do mean everything, even if it at first seems like a distraction from the task at hand, because even those tid-bits have a habit of worming their way into a story at some point).

    I suppose, to answer your question about why I don't create outlines, that when I pick up a pen and set it to a blank piece of paper, I want to be able to explore that piece of paper as though I'm in unchartered waters as much as possible, if that makes sense? If I feel restricted to what I've mapped out on another piece of paper, I usually find myself in boring landscapes (or worse, enemy territory :eek:).
     
  12. Paul_V
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    Paul_V Member

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    I have spent roughly 5 years outlining. So yeah, I do. I couldn't even begin to tackle such a huge story without the aid of outlining. However, when I'm writing something short, I rarely bother to do so.
     
  13. Roxie
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    Roxie Active Member

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    I don't outline - I need the surprises, the twist and turns, just as much as the reader those. As long as I know what my characters want, what obstacle stands in there way then I am good to go from there.
     
  14. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    I will post a link to my outlining process.

    Go here

    As I go through that process I write down all the information I come up with. I also make simple notes for characters and names. For example, some of the notes I have for Agija of Agukas are: Gorn: Big men almost gorilla like. Dark-blue skin. Skin dreads. Large bat-like ears.

    As I get new scene ideas, I write them down in my notes, so I don't forget.
     
  15. TyroScribe
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    It really depends on the kind of writing I'm doing. For essays, I definitely need to do one. For fictional short stories and novels, I never do outlines.

    Instead what I'll do is write up a general plot for my story. Then I'll write up a whole bunch of documents about the backstory of all my characters (history, interests, place of birth, etc.) In addition, I'll write special information about any organizations that exist in my story. It can include anything pretty much. It also helps me to write a brief atlas type document about any locations I intend on using or creating. Overall, it could take me up to two months to finish doing all of that before I begin work on my rough draft. It is truly amazing all of the decisions that a writer has to make before they even get down to the process of actually producing a story.
     
  16. Nilfiry
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    Nilfiry Contributing Member

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    I never create outlines since I never seem to need one. No matter how intricate I make my plot, I always seem to manage.
     
  17. Forgetmenot77
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    Forgetmenot77 Senior Member

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    That never occurred to me what a good idea. I can start at the ending and work my way through it. Wow.. thanks..I remember doing that in elementary school for writing assignments! That is so simple just could not remember it..LOL. I must be getting old.
     
  18. Arrow
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    Arrow Member

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    For my novel (first) I outlined for myself a general map of my big ideas. But I still don't know exactly what my ending will be.

    With each chapter I do a bullet of the big ideas then let my creative juices flow. New ideas, insights, etc. come to me and I simply jot these down in the margins until I'm at a place to develop or insert them. (Oh yeah, I write long hand...but that's another thread.)
     
  19. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I prefer to keep the flow of my story fluid. If I try to pre-create an outline, I would find it constraining. Either it becomes obsolete soon after I create it, or I force the story to sick to the outline, or I continually hhave to revise the outline as the story grows.

    I accept the first option, and therefore never materialize an actual outline on paper (or disk). When I have the story idea, I know where I want it to go, and some key occurrences along the way. That's all I need. The rest comes into focus as the story grows, so the story itself becomes the outline.
     
  20. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    I never write an outline down on paper, as then I have to follow it. But i'm always happy to have an idea of what I want the story to be about, how to write it, and if I have an ending it is even better. But these things are all in my head thought I like discussing it with friends, as it builds the idea in my own mind and gets them interested in reading the finished produced.

    Also, I am a great beliver in 'There are no great writers - just great rewriters'
     
  21. Flozzie
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    Flozzie Active Member

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    When I write short stories I never outline. When I write something longer I find it helpful though. Sometimes I outline the whole story/novel down to actual scenes, and sometimes I just write down general ideas. Depends on how much I know about the story before I start to write.
     
  22. Agreen
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    Agreen Faceless Man Contributor

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    I think like most things in writing, it's about striking the right balance. I've tried intricate planning down to the last detail- and failed, and tried making up the plot as I go along- and failed. For my current projects, I typically draw a diagram of the plot structure with all the major scenes roughly detailed, and then let the characters' actions and words carry them through each point. And then go back to the diagram and wonder what's going on because I can't read my own handwriting.
     
  23. Mercurial
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    Mercurial Contributing Member Contributor

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    The professional papers and articles I write always have an outline or schematic, but with my fiction I use a less limiting strategy, but I do use one. If I dont have some sort of idea of where I'm going, I find that I overwrite and confuse even myself, so there would be no hope for a reader.

    For novels or larger projects I write very rough drafts of my opener, my 'point of no return' scene, my climax, and my final scene before I write any of the middle stuff. I dont bother to make them very good, because I do know that things will change to fit my moods and situations as I write them, but it helps me to focus myself without limiting myself (much) and gives me a destination to work toward. --Those four scenes are always the most exciting to write anyway, so I tend to get really excited about a piece and keep writing.

    I dont keep outlines for short stories (in the time it would take to construct an outline, I could finish the story) and definitely not for poetry. Even loose constraint jeopardizes the poem, in my opinion.
     

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