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  1. Hubardo
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    Hubardo Contributing Member Contributor

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    How do you outline your plot?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Hubardo, May 15, 2015.

    In the past I would start writing without an outline. Then, a couple times, I've done that, then sort of stood back and asked what I might like to do, then start outlining based on that. Then, I tried outlining story which I didn't realize was different from plot. Now, I think outlining plot is pretty important before getting to work. I only write short stories right now though so that's a thing. How do you outline your plot? Do you? Why or why not? What has been your evolutionary process as a writer in this regard?
     
  2. UpstateWriter
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    UpstateWriter Member

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    I don't. I have tried, but find a write best--at least a first draft--from the hip. I applaud people that are able to outline their novel in advance.
     
  3. RachHP
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    RachHP Contributing Member

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    I have to say, I started my current WIP winging it and it's driven me completely insane. I've since tried plotting but still get tangled up and in future intend to sit down and flesh out the whole story in as much detail as I can before starting to write the damn thing. That way, things would be tighter and I wouldn't spend hours writing reams I won't use. Ultimately, although free-flow writing is much more fun, I think I'd trade a little personal enjoyment for better results!

    The plotting I've managed to do, I've done using spreadsheets (or on lots of bits of paper I move around on a table and yell at until they make sense). I've flirted with spider diagrams and flow charts; basically, whatever works for my brain the day I sit down to do it!
     
  4. B93
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    B93 Active Member

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    There is a guy in our critique group who says he just has an idea, starts writing, and the plot develops. There is another guy who planned out the bones of 13 novels in his created world before he got the second one drafted.

    I tried to write a novel with just some ideas, and find that the plot refuses to develop. I've agonized over how to give it a decent plot, and made some changes to the beginning to fit that plot without throwing away 12k words. I ran those ideas past the group and people don't buy the bad guy's behavior that is essential to the plot I was trying to develop.

    So I guess it's whatever works for you, but nothing works well for me.
     
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  5. Hubardo
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    Hubardo Contributing Member Contributor

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    NOTHING WORKS WELL FOR ME EITHER!!!
     
  6. Hubardo
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    Hubardo Contributing Member Contributor

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    Quote by Steven King:

    "I won't try to convince you that I've never plotted any more than I'd try to convince you that I've never told a lie, but I do both as infrequently as possible. I distrust plot for two reasons: first, because our lives are largely plotless, even when you add in all our reasonable precautions and careful planning; and second, because I believe plotting and the spontaneity of real creation aren't compatible. . . ."
     
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  7. DeathandGrim
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    DeathandGrim Contributing Member

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    I start with just a beginning point and an end point. Gotta know where the whole ride starts and stops so you know where to steer.

    Then I come up with a few maybe epic or otherwise important events next. In one of my planned stories I have a climactic fight with a shadow god who literally punches a reality threatening beast with every single shadow in the universe. Events like that can be the climax or where you place them. Just find the KEY important events.

    Then I come up with events that lead to those events. Conversations, actions, observations, etc.

    That covers the basic outline. After that you start working on the fine details. It's a very sturdy process but is also very flexible. I end up changing most events as I'm planning them and can change all the in-betweens too. And if the changes are powerful enough I end up changing the beginning and or ending with it.
     
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  8. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm not sure I follow you: what do you mean would be different about outlining the plot from outlining the story?
     
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  9. Hubardo
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    Hubardo Contributing Member Contributor

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    I understand them to be different. Story is what happens, plot is the interesting conflicts and tensions that drive what happens. I think.
     
  10. smhlolroflbrb
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    smhlolroflbrb Unauthorized Reentry

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    I think of plot as a tool for helping the author and reader understand the story better. If you plot out events in your story on paper, my advice is to write loosely and with as few words as possible. "A story needs loose ends to move"--that's my favorite quote from Dianna Wynne Jones. This is personally what I do to start with, but everyone starts a story differently. It's whatever helps you as an individual writer get from the first page to the last. Leave it to the person who writes the blurb on the back of your book to sum up your plot.
     
  11. Blighters
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    Blighters Member

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    Question for those of you that don't plan/outline. What do you do with all the ideas?! When I'm working on a novel I'm constantly thinking about it. I'll generally have a start and finish and then literally any spare moment is spent pondering the 'in-between'. This is generally how I come up with new ideas, twists, story lines etc which I'll then slot into the plot/outline where best appropiate. If you're writing 'from the hip' are you only ever thinking about two pages in front? Surely you know where the story is going? Do you try and not to think ahead at all? What if you have a great idea but your story isn't at that point yet?
     
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  12. Victoria Griffin
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    Victoria Griffin Member

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    I don't outline. I've tried, really. I'm just not built that way. As I write, I always feel like I'm discovering the characters and the story. I feel like I'm just as surprised as the characters at the direction the story takes, and I love that. I've always had the notion that my stuff would be better if I could plot it all out in advance, but I've abandoned that idea. When I work from an outline, everything comes out seeming forced. I lose the nuances of my characters' motivations when they are forced to follow a particular path. Yes, I know I could change the outline, but then what's the point of having one to begin with?

    I use Scrivener so I always have a note in there somewhere with a running list of random ideas (scenes, whatever) that I want to include. When I use something, I mark it off.
     
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  13. Lae
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    Lae Contributing Member Contributor

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    get a pen, and trace around the edges?
     
  14. Lae
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    Lae Contributing Member Contributor

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    seriously though, outline should be really basic i think. Think point A-B via dilemma, heartbreak, death, or triumph of C,D & E. Its up you how they get there.
     
  15. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I haven't heard that distinction - I don't really understand it. When you say you tried outlining the story rather than outlining the plot, do you mean you wrote down a lot of stuff that happened without knowing why it happened? Like, without understanding the conflict and tension, how would you be able to decide what the characters would do or what would reasonably happen next?
     
  16. Mordred85
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    Mordred85 Active Member

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    Honestly, that's a decision only you can make. For me, I think of a sequence of events first. They may or may not be vague, but what happens and who's responsible isn't something that I enjoy predicting. My mind is concentrating on everything other than "what's supposed to happen". I don't know about you, but forcing myself to plan and pre-determine everything would take out of the adventure that is writing.
     
  17. smhlolroflbrb
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    smhlolroflbrb Unauthorized Reentry

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    I agree. Don't write anything you think you ought to.

    By figuring out plot and other aspects of story as I go, it's possible for me to make more informed decisions. I have to balance this, however, with preparation. Whatever I drop into my story, I make a point to prepare it for interaction with my world. There's got to be enough information about a character, for example, for your reader to grab onto. I believe the most important thing is to leave room to shape your ideas or to completely reform them. Art imitates life, and life can change to someone's liking but it's largely unpredictable.
     
  18. Blighters
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    Blighters Member

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    Okay, quick follow up question then for those of you who don't actively outline/plot.

    Do you practice other forms of planning other than outlining/plotting? For example character development? If not do you not run the risk of have poorly fleshed out characters with little depth?
     
  19. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    Not planning out the whole book ahead of writing doesn't mean you don't ever THINK about your book. I have a rough idea of characters before I start, and then as I write, I add more details and layers. When I'm done the first draft, I'll read it over and adjust the earlier characterization to match what I came up with by the end of the first draft.

    There really isn't a "risk" or a problem with pantsing, just like there isn't a risk or a problem with plotting. It's just a question of finding what works best for the individual writer.
     
  20. Gloria Sythe
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    Gloria Sythe Member

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    Have you tried mind mapping when planning and laying out a story before you start working on the story its self? I found this to be my answer to keeping the story moving at an even pace and could work on the scenes in chronological order. I can always see the beginning and the end of each scene before I actually start writing the chapter or scene. Actually, each scene and chapter, I found, is a mini story within a story.
     
  21. Ursa
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    Ursa New Member

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    I use the snowflake method.

    Once I get an inspiration, I map out all the major characters, the general plot points and the background of the story before I start. It's much easier for me once I start writing.
     
  22. J_Downloading
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    J_Downloading Member

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    I only outline in my head. It helps motivate me to write more often and if I forget an idea before I get to writing it down then I guess it wasn't a very good idea in the first place.
     
  23. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    I don't plot I storyline. Sounds like the same thing but really it isn't - it's actions without the whys behind them. Usually I brainstorm - writing scattering of ideas on a huge piece of paper. Then I choose the ones I want, list them in a order of rising action. Voila my storyline. There's no plot. Plot comes with character and what they're going to do with these actions. It seems odd to have actions without characters but it's actually quite loose and flexible and it works. Besides I usually have a general idea of the characters so I know where certain people have to be. Right now I'm working on a story and I know one character has to be picked up at a mental institution. I know a husband, wife, and her ex-husband will purchase a creepy house together - but the why's, the plot, aren't worked out yet - I find they only come in the conflict of a scene. It's only in the moment of writing that I figure out the plot not during the planning.
     
  24. Hannah0113
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    Hannah0113 Member

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    I like to outline as I go. I have found that if I try to come up with my outline before I begin writing, I only end up changing the outline so many times that most of the original outline gets changed anyway. So, if I outline as I go, this problem goes away. I can then add to it as needed, and the only parts that are added to it that haven't been written yet are major points that I know will actually be included.
     
  25. bumble bee
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    bumble bee Member

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    I've been really interested in the thread. I've never plotted out a story before but I was thinking it might be useful exercise and would give my narrative the structure it's lacking. I like Kurt Vonnegut's take on it:

    "I had outlined the Dresden story many times. The best outline I ever made, or anyway the prettiest one, was on the back of a roll of wallpaper.

    I used my daughter's crayons, a different color for each main character. One end of the wallpaper was the beginning of the story, and the other end was the end, and then there was all that middle part, which was the middle. And the blue line met the red line and then the yellow line, and the yellow line stopped because the character represented by the yellow line was dead. And so on. The destruction of Dresden was represented by a vertical band of orange cross-hatching, and all the lines that were still alive passed through it, came out the other side.

    The end, where all the lines stopped, was a battefield on the Elbe, outside the Halle. The rain was coming down."

    I imagine it's a lot harder than it sounds, but a nice idea...
     
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