1. J.A.K.
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    J.A.K. Member

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    Outline? Maybe, maybe not.

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by J.A.K., Feb 19, 2013.

    Hello, people. I recently spoke with a professor (who also writes fiction), and he told me that the most efficient way to write is to record your thoughts in an outline before typing or writing them down. This is the exact OPPOSITE of what I do. I usually just write what comes to mind, and clean it up later (which, admittedly has led to some sloppy writing in the past, but some gems, too!). I'm curious to know, how do you guys write? Do you outline your thoughts or do you just write what comes to mind immediately.

    -J.A.K. O.U.T.
     
  2. Thomas Kitchen
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    Thomas Kitchen Proofreader in the Making Contributor

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    Hi J.A.K.,

    Firstly, you have to realise that every writer is different: some write in the mornings, some don't. Some like to only have a single sentence in thir head before they begin their novel, others want pages and pages of research and outlinings before they begin. Whatever you choose, it has to be comfortable for you. For example, I personally like to plan a little before beginning. Of course the actual writing of the novel is what I really want to do, but I try to create some character bios and a rough plot outline before I ever put the first word onto the page.

    However, if you feel like you simply want to write as soon as an idea or whatever comes to your mind, then go with it. As long as, as you say, you get some good writing out of it (disregarding the editing process). Just do what's comfortable for you.

    Hope I helped. :)
     
  3. Bimber
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    Bimber Contributing Member

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    Each writer is different some tend to outline others like discovery writing others start from the ending so what ever works for you is ok

    Personally i'm still experimenting around i like to outline sometimes but other times its not working for me, even found working from the ending is also cool and works for me sometimes
     
  4. erebh
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    erebh Contributing Member Contributor

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    i used to work on the 2 steps back 1 step forward model but have since modified it. If I write 2000 words per night, at least half of it will be editing last night's 2000 words so I get to tidy up last night while getting back into the story. It might be slow but it seems to work for me.

    I have about 40,000 words written. I started with writing the last chapter and then went back to chapter 1 with no set plan in between, just ideas running through my head during the day. I also manage to create new characters and even new species so I don't know how people can actually plan out their books with charts and maps etc and stick rigidly to it.

    It's funny but when I let my pen flow, it sounds great in my head but the following night I think wtf? But now I've got to grips with just writing, rambling even for the sake of filling a page and then going back through it with some seriously sharp shears it seems to work for me.

    Horses for courses I suppose...
     
  5. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    I do a loose outline - the bones of the story. Find out the characters, some happenings, the gist of the story
    if not the actual plot. Organize it into chunks and then start writing. I try not to overwork my outline.
    It's nice to have a framework so I don't write myself into a dead end. But I like it loose enough
    that if I get an idea that's better than what I've come up with, I'm not so rigid as to say - that's not
    on the agenda.
     
  6. NellaFantasia
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    NellaFantasia Member

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    I've always been one to do whatever I feel like. That might mean outlining the book chapter by chapter with character sheets and world building notes before I begin, or it might mean sitting down without even a smidgen of an idea and writing a bunch of ramblings until I find myself with 5,000 words to the beginning of a novel.

    My favorite way to do it is normally somewhere in the middle. I like to have a plot in my head, a few main characters and, since I write fantasy, a general idea of the magic system. But it doesn't have to be set in stone before I begin. I like to have fun when starting a story because that's usually when the spark of inspiration is the brightest.
     
  7. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't outline. I start with a very basic idea or a character who gets thrown into some kind of problem. Then I write. I edit as I go, so when I finish a chapter, other than working with betas, it's done. Then I move on to the next. Everything written is based on what I've already written, so no suddenly deciding I have to delete or rewrite whole chapters because I want to do something else. When I get to the last chapter, I'm looking at polishing, nothing more. I've used an outline for exactly one story - and it's been languishing in "bored-to-tears-dom" for months.
     
  8. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Did the professor really use the word "efficient"? Efficiency is pretty far down the list of things I look for in a novel.

    You could say the most efficient way of driving from Los Angeles to Seattle is to get on Interstate 5 and head north. You'll be in Seattle in two easy days, less if you really push it. But, as one who has made that trip many times, I can tell you it's pretty dull.

    If, however, you get off the interstate and take back roads, and maybe the scenic Pacific Coast Highway, it'll take a lot longer, but you'll have a far more interesting trip - one which you might fondly remember for the rest of your life.

    Writing from an outline is like taking the interstate. The object is to get to your destination quickly and without any fuss. It's efficient.

    I don't use an outline. I prefer to take the back roads, see some beautiful sights, and have some fun when I'm writing. I assume the reader would like that, too - or at least some of them would.
     
  9. BitPoet
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    BitPoet Member

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    But a lot of that depends on how you define "outline". If you're talking about trying to work out every small scene ahead of time I'll have to agree. I do some outlining too, but I limit myself to major scenes, and I'd like to compare that to planning to visit some major towns or sights along the way. Of course this prevents me from changing my route comletely, but it leaves me enough room to explore lots of nice places that come up along the way. Even if I plan for my main character to stumble over a dead dog in chapter one and to have the dead gardener in the same spot in one of the following chapters, I can still do the detour to my main character's former boyfriend who turns up unexpectedly and behaves shy about the contents of his car trunk (he's secretely selling vacuum cleaners, which his mother wouldn't approve of ;)).
     
  10. Bimber
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    Bimber Contributing Member

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    You make it sound like outlining is boring and that a reader can figure how a book is written, the reader has no way to know which style is used only how good a writer is...

    Both styles have pros and cons, at the end it comes down to the writer how he likes to write, IMO a middle ground is best

    Outlining might take more time to brainstorm ideas and write them down before you do the actual writing, and if you are a strict outliner you might not allow your characters to develop freely
    Discovery writing starts you faster but you can easily write yourself into a deadend and need to go back to fix something, or more often you discard the first few chapters in order to make chp4 the beginning as you found out its a much better starting point for the story, plus beginners tend to loose consistency deeper in the story

    But dont know if anyone can force themselves to be one and not the other, think it comes natural your either one or the other or something in between, but to say one is more fun than the other is wrong as it comes down to taste
     
  11. jwideman
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    jwideman Senior Member

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    I've never seen the point of outlining. I remember my one attempt at outlining ended up with a story I didn't want to finish telling. You could say that seeing the bones ruined my appetite for the fish.
    However, I know how the story begins, how it ends, and the obstacles the hero encounters trying to go from one to the other. I guess one could call that an outline.
     
  12. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I didn't say outlining is boring. I said writing from an outline is boring.

    I don't regard this as a problem. The dead end you've written yourself into might just become the seed of your next story, if you'll pardon the mixed metaphors. Besides, writing into a dead end teaches you more about the geography of your story than you'll learn from a map of the quickest route, and you may find something marvelous in the vicinity of that dead end. Going back and fixing something might just involve changing your route to include the dead end, so to speak, so it isn't a dead end anymore. The story may become more interesting, and maybe more moving, as a result.
     
  13. Jetshroom
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    Jetshroom Active Member

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    Outlining has a different definition for pretty much every writer. For some, outlining means meticulously plotting every aspect of your novel before you start. eg: you have pages upon pages of character sheets, a detailed timeline, a vast encyclopedia of the world, and all of these things are tools used to write the actual novel.
    For others, outlining means knowing the general shape of your story. You know where you need to get to, and you write towards that point.
    But outlining isn't for everyone either.
    Some people like to just sit down and start typing. They don't know anything about their world, characters or story, and just want to see where it goes.

    Brandon Sanderson has a series of lectures and he covers this sort of thing. He calls it Discovery writing vs Outlining.

    I find myself somewhere in the middle. If I don't have the shape of the story, I meander. If I have thorough notes and plans, then I get bored.

    But, I always recommend TRYING outlining if you're a discovery writer. Just as I recommend trying discovery writing if you're an outliner. What you're doing may work, but changing things up could make you work better.
     
  14. Aristotle
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    Aristotle New Member

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    I can't use outlines - too restraining, especially for my style appropriately named "go-with-the-flow." In fact, only moments ago, I wrote a one-page story on the loss of individuality starting with a random sentence that had very little to do with the overall story. I didn't even know the theme until halfway through. It may be a short paper, but still, this is what I always do. It just works best.
     
  15. Shadywood
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    Shadywood Member

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    I do both free flow and use of outlines. I have my general direction mapped out, with the critical plot points set up, but when I sit down, I rarely look at my outline. I just pick up where I want to and flow away. I agree with others who stated that it is up to each writer. I know the Stephen King book on writing says not to use outlines, and he has had a little bit of success with that! I also find with different ideas, outlines are critical. For example, my novel follows the life of a real person, so the plot obviously has to be shaped by an outline of true events.
     
  16. Bimber
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    Bimber Contributing Member

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    @Minstrel
    I get that you find it boring and value your opinion, but i fail to see how does that matter to a reader what style was used? I dont think anyone can tell from reading and say"oh yeah this guy is an outliner"

    @Jetshroom
    I agree with you that a beginner should learn the benefits of both styles, and yeah each writer does have their own definition on how or what outlining is to them or discovery writing

    Steven King teaches that for him discovery writing is to create a set of believable characters and put them into various events and situations and see what they do on their own according to their character development, and never force them to do something that kind of person would never do.
    Others see it as getting a base idea or sometimes even a name and start
     
  17. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    for short pieces i simply sit down and write, keep writing till i get to the end...

    for a book, i might just lay out the plot/characters first, or start writing and do that when i get to where i need to do so, in order to not get tangled up in subplots and who's who...

    you need to do what works best for you, not what anyone else does or tells you to do...
     
  18. mickaneso
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    mickaneso Member

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    Take everything a writing teacher tells you with a pinch of salt. Sometimes what they say will resonate with you and you'll think "yeah, that makes sense, that could really enhance my writing ". But if it doesn't make sense to you then you're probably just a different kind of writer. Sometimes it won't make sense to and later you'll think your writing is bad and remember what the teacher said and think "hmmm maybe if I did do it that way then it would improve."

    I think the most important thing is to make yourself aware of all these different approaches and then just pick the one that resonates with you.
     

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