1. RadioActive
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    RadioActive New Member

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    Outlines

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by RadioActive, Feb 1, 2009.

    Useful or useless?

    I've tried using one before, and ended up going so off that I couldn't pick it back up. And I'm currently torn between creating a simple one for my next project or just going with the flow.

    Although I know from experience that nothing happens as I plan it to...

    Any advice?
     
  2. Mercurial
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    Mercurial Contributing Member Contributor

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    I usually sketch out my opening scene, the point of no return scene, the climax, and the final scene, just so I know where I'm going with my story. However, I dont write an entire outline; I find it limits me from going where I might want to go, and it's a chore.
     
  3. ConnorMack
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    ConnorMack Member

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    I agree with Mercurial, to create an entire outline may only hurt your story in the long run. Outline important parts that you feel are necessary for the story to be told, and allow the rest to come to you.
     
  4. RomanticRose
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    RomanticRose Active Member

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    They work for some people, but are poison to others. Find your own process and work with it.
     
  5. lordofhats
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    lordofhats Contributing Member

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    I keep my outlines vague, putting in only things I intend to address at any given point. The rest I work out when I get there.
     
  6. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    This is pretty much exactly why I don't write down any sort of outline. I;ll have an idea of where I want to go with a story in my head, but that evolves as the story grows. Rather than try to keep an outline current with the developing story, I consider the story itself to be the outline. This doesn;t mean I never have any kind of notes. I keep notes on any research I need to do for the story, and I sometimes jot down occasional ideas that I may or may not use. Sometimes I hear a name I like, so I jot that down in case I find use for it.

    But characters are too dynamic for static profiles, and storylines don't sit still long enough either.
     
  7. tehuti88
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    tehuti88 Contributing Member

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    I prefer not to use outlines myself, at least not until I'm nearing the end of a story and want to make sure I don't overlook any important plot points. (Then it's like making a shopping list of remaining events, really.)

    However, I write very long serials, and I prefer to not know EVERYTHING that's going to happen ahead of time, yet I've usually spent enough time mulling the plot over to know the main events. Outlining can help if you're not really sure of everything that's going to happen yet, and if you want to keep a story to a certain length. I used an outline on a novel of mine and that helped (though it wasn't nearly as fun to write, knowing ahead of time everything that was going to happen).

    Sometimes outlines are useful, sometimes not. Depends on what you use them for.
     
  8. lordofhats
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    lordofhats Contributing Member

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    I found early in my writing hobby that I tended to start a story without an outline but would almost always end up with a massive plot hole or unworkable situation that I'd gone to. Often the only way to fix them would be to completely rewrite chapters and sections of chapters which often gave the piece a cut and paste feel to it. When this happened, I tended to give up on the story. That got annoying after a while so I started writing vague outlines that would take me through the story line so I could catch major holes and fix them before I started writing.

    Sometimes things still change on me as I'm writing, and I usually roll with it and address any outline changes later but I do like now that I can get a broad overview of what I plan to write and eliminate some typical stalls I normally hit. I find them very helpful for that.
     
  9. sorites
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    sorites Senior Member

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    I try to use outlines, but a story can definitely take on a life of its own. That's happened with my last two stories. The final product ended up being out of sync with my outline.

    For my current project, I'm spending a long time working up an outline. I'm kind of sick of it, to be honest. It all started with my attempt to define my opening scene and my final scene. I figured if I could come with the start and the end, then I could fill in the middle just by writing. But I had too many questions that prevented me from seeing how I could get to that end point, the climax. In thinking about it and trying to decide how all the pieces would fit together, I found myself doing more and more outlining. I'm still not done and who knows if the story will end up keeping with the outline or not, but I will say this: the process has certainly made me examine the story itself. My hope is that by the end, I will have a good idea of where to go. When I finish one scene, my outline should naturally spur me on to the next one.
     
  10. BillyxRansom
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    BillyxRansom Active Member

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    I'm not sure if someone already said this but here's my thing with outlines and people who are against them:

    An outline will never be published. Ever. So I don't understand why there is so much fear against them, that they might be "pigeonholing" your story. You can always go back and change something out of the outline. Hell, even change it in the ms. when you realize that THE WAY you've written, so far, of what you've outlined, works well, but what follows doesn't flow as well. Change what follows. You can do it, because that isn't what is going to be submitted. Of course, only do it if what you've outlined doesn't work by a certain point.

    Leave it be if it works.

    But outlining helps to get a sense of what is going on, what your story is about. Going in blind can be confusing.
     
  11. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Confusing for your perhaps. I always have some sort of plan in my head when I begin. Writing it down is pointless, and in my opinion is often a form of procrastination from actually writing the story. I feel the same about detailed character profiles too.

    It's not about pigeonholing. It;s about writing something that will be obsolete long before it ever becomes useful.

    On the other hand, some people's thought processes make it so seeing a representation on peper or screen is necessary to wrap their head around the plan. The outline will still become obsolete very soon after you've begun writing, but it will haqve served its purpose anyway.

    Trying to keep an outline in sync with tye growing story is, for me, a complete waste of time. I know what I've written, and what I'm moving toward. If I forget a detail. I go back to te writing rather than to a (probably obsolete) outline.

    Now if I'm writing a formal essay, I WILL use an outline. But fiction is fluid enough that I don;t want to overplan it.

    I just don;t see a real benefit to a fiction outline that would come close to being worth the effort of creating and maintaining it.
     
  12. Scarecrow28
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    Scarecrow28 Contributing Member

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    I feel it's important to have some kind of outline, but over-detailed ones don't tend to help much. My advice would just to be to create a simple one that covers the story's most important details but leaves room for modification. You should know where the story is going and have a good idea of how it's going to get there while still having the ability to fill in and play with the exact details.
     

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