1. Traum
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    Traum New Member

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    outlining

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Traum, Jul 31, 2011.

    before you actually start writing the first draft, do you outline the story and if so how?

    i've published 5 novels so far (not in english, though, i'm italian) but this is the first time i'm trying to write a mystery novel, and i think it would be easier if i outlined it before actually writing the draft. since i've never done it that way, i'm looking for your experience and recommendations, pros and cons, and all that. :)
     
  2. flipflop
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    flipflop Senior Member

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    I have only ever tried using the snowflake method. You will have to google it with snowflake method by Randy Ingermanson its is good for fantasy novels but how it translates to a mystery i dont know. I would post the link but it will just get my post deleted.

    There are probably better ways to do a mystery and i'm sure someone will offer alternatives. The problem you will find is that everyone finds different ways of writing easier than the next so i think it will be a case of finding a method that suits you best. Others will say that the snowflake method is rubbish i'm sure.
     
  3. Traum
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    Traum New Member

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    i know we all work in different ways, and i don't think someone else's method will automatically work for me, i'm just trying to see what's used out there and what are my options. even though i've written a lot, i consider myself an absolute beginner in this genre. all of my previous novels were completely character-driven and in a way everything would develop spontaneously. i'm not sure a plot-driven story, such as a mystery, can be written well that way.

    i'll look into the snowflake method, thanks. :)
     
  4. The-Joker
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    The-Joker Contributing Member Contributor

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    Traum I've always been a fan of outlining, and in the case of mysteries I'd say an outline will make your life a whole lot easier.

    While starting with one sentence and allowing a story to unfold spontaneously, going where ever your pen takes it, sounds romantic and exciting, I'd have to say that to craft a good mystery requires definate structure. You start at the end, and work your way backwards. Only if you know the big reveal can you effectively sprinkle the clues. So it's far easier to have the events laid out before you begin fleshing out chapters.
     
  5. thewordsmith
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    thewordsmith Contributing Member Contributor

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    I have never outlined anything ahead of writing. For complex storylines (such as with murder mysteries) I utilize a timeline in-process, adding notes and occurrances and dates as I go. I do, however, have a clear cut concept of the story from start to finish before I open a clean page and start writing.
     
  6. Show
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    Show Contributing Member Contributor

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    Outlining, IMO, is something that, if it helps you, use it. If it doesn't, don't. I've NEVER found myself much helped by an outline. I'm more of a mental outliner. Written out outlines just seem to choke me.
     
  7. Dr Guillotine
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    Dr Guillotine Member

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    I always outline. Helps me to remember the things I want to use, the order, and anything else I want to remember.

    It comes in handy for motivation also. When I don't feel like writing. I'll look at the outline and get excited about the ideas.
     
  8. guamyankee
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    guamyankee Contributing Member

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    The key here is that your outlining style is not some sick form of god-like predestination. I generally do not outline, at least on paper, but if I did, this is the method I would use.
     
  9. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I don't like the idea of outlining. I think that, for too many people, making an outline is an excuse for not writing. People can pat themselves on the back, telling themselves they're doing wonderful creative work and developing stories and so on, without actually producing a single word of the text of those stories. Outliners can call themselves "writers" without actually writing anything. Some of these people are not writers, they're just outliners. (No offense meant - I'm sure nobody here falls into that category.)

    The other problem I have with outlines is that they strangle any spontaneous creativity a writer has when actually writing. I find that I come up with most of my ideas while I'm actually writing the text of the story, not beforehand. If I were to stick to an outline, I'd be denying myself the pleasure of following my muse while I'm writing. So I just like to start with an idea, even a flimsy one, and trust that my imagination will generate the ideas I need as I go. It's more fun, and I believe my stories are richer for it.
     
  10. roseberryse
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    roseberryse Member

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    I agree that sometimes outlines can stifle creativity; however, I do think they can be useful in keeping timelines straight and things of that nature. Let's face it, most of us can't remember every little detail that we've written in our story and it's beneficial to have something to refer back to on a regular basis without having to go through the text.
     
  11. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think the best way to treat an outline is as a guideline, something to fall back on when you don't know how to move on from where you are, not as something fixed that can't be changed if you come up with something better. That way I find it's a good help but I also want the freedom of creativity when I write. Just because I know where the scene is going doesn't mean I can't be creative about the ways of getting from A to B. I never outline too precisely but pretty loose so that there is still room for improvisation.
     
  12. AmyHolt
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    AmyHolt Contributing Member

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    I outline after I've written a scene. I write a couple words about the scene (a title sort of) and the word count. So my outline is a list of scenes and their word count. It is very helpful if I need to go back and find something and to keep the story straight in my head. Several times I've used it to remember if something has happened by this point in the story (would they know that yet?).
    I rarely outline before I write a story but I don't always write the story from the beginning to the end. So at some point I have an outline, scenes with holes in the story between them. I fill in the holes I finish the story.
     
  13. Nicholas C.
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    Nicholas C. Active Member

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    Thanks for posting this. It's interesting to see how a right-brain physicist approaches a creative task like writing a novel lol.
     
  14. Sundae
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    Sundae Contributing Member

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    Meh. The snowflake method to me is nothing but a extremely intricate way to organize a novel. It's not useful when it comes to story,plot, or character development <<< which is what many people seek when they outline.
     
  15. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I don't like reading about things like the snowflake method. There just seems to be a gigantic ego behind it, like Randy Ingermanson thinks he's discovered the key to writing brilliantly, and, by implication, every novel written before the Coming of Randy Ingermanson is substandard.

    I know he's not saying that, but underneath, it kind of seems like he's thinking that.
     
  16. VM80
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    VM80 Contributing Member Contributor

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    I never write 'an outline' as such.

    For a mystery novel, I think I would note down some stuff though - you need to keep your timelines in check, people's whereabouts and alibis, any 'red herrings' you may be planting, etc. etc.

    Then you can write within that framework, but it gives you plenty of scope for writing off the cuff as well.
     
  17. Sundae
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    Sundae Contributing Member

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    Yep. but it's one the first things that pops up in Google when you look up anything close to plot development, novel writing etc. For a newbie doing research etc, it's easy to get sucked into. I know when I first started transitioning writing non-fiction to fiction, I was reading up on plot and character development etc, and it's one the first things that came up. But it's hard to figure out that it's essentially just an extremely detailed outline.

    As far as outlines go. I don't put them down. They're work for some, and they don't work for others.

    Outlines are extremely helpful when I write non-fiction (especially essays format) Most non-fiction work have some sort of structure that your follow and once you know what works for you, you're gold.

    Fiction on the other hand is a little troublesome, because the structure of fiction is extremely fluid-like that outlining just doesn't work. I have never been able to outline any story and follow it and half the time, I go in a different direction.

    The only thing that has worked as far as fiction goes for me is summarizing my entire novel concept in a two page paper. It's actually interesting, but I do this for all my novel ideas, especially ones I can't write at the moment since I'm working on other projects. It's interesting to see evolve. Sometimes, I have standalone concepts that are amazing, other times, I notice that four or five concepts are extremely similar, and if I combine all of them, I've got a bigger idea than I had before.
     
  18. AJSmith
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    AJSmith Senior Member

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    I use a very generic, dynamic outline. It changes as I write in order to accommodate the new direction the writing has gone. It feels nice to nail down the main checkpoints/events of the story, as well as the events that take you from one main point to another, but my outline changed so many times over the course of writing my first draft! I think the key is to remember to stay flexible and adapt as the writing goes where it will.

    Edited to add:
    I also like using a time-line in addition to my outline. The time-line helps me keep what happened when straight, the outline helps me keep my focus on moving from one main event to the next, ultimately to the conflict/resolution. I find referencing both very helpful (in addition to my character notes, which are not part of my outline either). I don't use my outline to develop my characters - to some extent, I did that in my character notes, but they mostly developed through the writing...and much more through rewriting.
     

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