1. Crimson Dragon
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    Crimson Dragon Member

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    To outline or not to outline?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Crimson Dragon, May 25, 2013.

    As the title asks. I have a setting, characters, and a general idea for a plot, but the exact details of said plot are not fully fleshed out. Thus, my question is whether or not I should fully detail the plot in an outline before I start writing or write the thing as I go along and fill any holes that may result after the fact? Any and all input on this topic will be appreciated.
     
  2. CheckeredFoxglove
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    CheckeredFoxglove Member

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    You'll probably have holes whether you outline or not; in my experience, cool details or new threads will come to you as you're writing and drag your story off in an awesome, unexpected direction. A general outline is helpful for most people, but detailed outlines... it depends on how detailed you mean. I know someone who's been writing an outline for over nine years and still hasn't written the actual story. The outline's "not good enough yet." But what I've found is, detailed outlines make the writing process more boring. You've already done all the discovery, so why write the thing? At least, that's what happens to me.

    So, my vote is to not outline. Not in detail, anyway.
     
  3. La_Donna
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    La_Donna Member

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    Before I started writing the thing I'm working on now I over researched: I drew out family trees, I created timelines and relationship tables for all my characters, I tried to research everything as thoroughly as possible but in the end it made me scared to write. I know it is different for everyone, but I would just start and see where it takes you - you might discover something about the plot and your characters you never knew.
     
  4. Nee
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    Nee Contributing Member

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    How can you have an idea, setting and characters and have not started writing yet?

    When I have an idea, setting and a few characters it's because I've had this scene rolling round inside my head for weeks and the only way I can stop thinking about it all day long is to write the damn thing down. Which of course means that somewhere in the middle of doing so I get ten ideas to further this idea which, makes the idea into a (and I hate to use the word) "concept'. And it's nearly impossible to have a concept without running into a least a few semi-related themes; which will always propel you further down the road 'til you hit what can only be described as some kind of critical mass where you'll pretty much have to stop and do some serous plotting.

    Which for me is usually between 13 to 15 scenes.

    So all this is just a long way of saying write by the scene; one scene after another (they don't have to be in sequence) just get them out and put-off plotting 'till you just can't help but do it. Then do only that which you must to continue writing the story (Keeping detailed notes on things you need to remember for later). Again, put off nailing down the particulars for as long as you can then alll a sudden you have your first draft.

    Then the real writing begins.
     
  5. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't outline at all. I just write.

    Different writers have different methods, and different books require different methods. Start writing with what you have, and see if it works. If not - adjust.
     
  6. Aprella
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    Aprella Senior Member

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    I actually do a bit of both...
    For the story I am writing now I am lining out most of it since I am writing together with a friend and things tend to get messy when we don't do this. But I do no want to go into details (unless the details are very important for another event in the story, but than they are maybe no details after all) since I want to leave room for spontaneous inspiration.

    The story started off as something fun, something to do together and we weren't very serious about. It is originally a fanfcition. I wrote a part, then she wrote a part and then I again and so on without ever consulting each other on the plot. This is an extremely fun way to write but a bit messy and you lack consistency and we have tons of confusing things and plot holes. But the plot was so good (well the basic and some other elements) that we decided to finish this version (and we are more or less plotting together now) and then rewrite everything. Change the characters a bit, develop them more, so that they are no longer based on the three famous people we started with. We'll probably come together somewhere this summer to make an outline of the plot. But I am actually more of a discovery write and discover while writing how to get my characters from point A in the story to point b.

    You should just try and see what works best for you :)
     
  7. ProsonicLive
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    ProsonicLive Senior Member

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    I have a list of Random people on a list. these people have certain personality types and can either be good,bad or antihero. weather or not I use them is up to me and the situation
    I can fill in their background as I see fit. I also put in certain elements like Ideas for car crashes, death scenarios, and just about any element I wish and give them pre-standing rules. otherwise I free-write and let the story unfold.but not everyone can free write...just like some find it impossible to outline.
     
  8. ManOrAstroMan
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    ManOrAstroMan Magical Space Detective Contributor

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    My advice is to treat it like a road trip: have a definite goal in mind, and line up some stops you want to make for sure, but don't overdo it. Because when you run into a snag, something you didn't plan on, it throws the whole thing out of whack. You'll end up having to go back and replot and it all just ends up being wasted time. That's why i do recommend doing research before you really get into the writing.
     
  9. PyrZern
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    PyrZern Member

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    I don't outline much. Maybe just some rough ideas so I know where to take it from one point to another.

    Also, I found out that, in my case, putting lots of details in an outline cut my interest in seeing it done. (because it's already finished in my mind.) And then I want to start another piece instead.
     
  10. doghouse
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    To me, it sounds like you are still discovering what kind of writer you are, and what kind of process you'll define. So, you've asked the right question. If I were in your shoes, I'd seek out differing methods, and use what works, or doesn't.

    That's it in a nutshell.

    For myself, I'm a hardcore out-liner.

    When I first started to write. I was a pantser, a discovery writer. Shunning other methods, thinking it would stifle creativity. I was wrong -- for me.

    I discovered story form and structure, and from there everything changed. What it isn't is formula writing, what it doesn't do is stifle creativity. What it does do is allow you to know where your story goes next. No gaping whole in the middle. *grins*

    Story form is the major turning or plot points, the structure how one gets from one to the other. The spaces between the plot points are blanks, to be filled in; let your creative flair run free.

    It's not for everyone, but at least it allows me to have a story in place, with no plot holes, knowing everything that needs to happen, and the next step is just to draft -- air those creative juices.

    My advice, if you're looking into outlining is research some forms. The classic 3-act structure, even Dan Well's seven point system. Dramatica -- the theory of story.

    Actually, there's a good article for story form relating to novels (if that's your bag): http://www.helpingwritersbecomeauthors.com/2012/03/secrets-of-story-structure-pt-2-hook.html

    It can be a lot to take in. It's a good idea to work out what you need to work on, an gear your writing to work on that one thing. Yep, one at a time.

    If you'd like to know more about my actual outlining process, feel free to PM me. It may seem quite complex, but it isn't that bad really. I love outlining. Once it's complete I know I can just sit down and draft my story from beginning to end.
     
  11. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    There is a stickied thread under General Writing, What's Your Writing Process?. Whether to outline, and to what degree, is discussed in detail there.
     
  12. Vault
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    I do a mix, but I also get spontaneous ideas while writing that never get added into the outline.
     
  13. Aliemas
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    Aliemas New Member

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    If you don't do an outline, that isn't necessarily bad. The only downfall to not organizing an outline can be if you don't you could forget or lose thoughts that you might have had. It is better to do an outline, although it can be annoying, it is more organized than not doing one.
     
  14. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    Of course, it's also possible to take notes of those thoughts so you don't lose them ;) And my writing is very organized without an outline - everything follows what already happened very smoothly and logically.
     
  15. Thornesque
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    Thornesque Contributing Member

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    I guess I'm a strange person? The only time I've ever been able to finish a novel is when I outlined it, chapter by chapter. I make the most progress on a novel when I write down what I want to happen. Now, granted, I mainly only follow the main plot arc. I don't go off and discuss minor conversations or interactions between characters. I don't really delve into any romantic relationship details in the outline. I just let those fall in where they will go. But I do have a timeline of events, and then I lay out where I want every event to fall in relation to chapters, and how I think it would be best broken up. That's the process that makes the most sense to me, as a writer.

    But, as has already been said, everyone's process is a little bit different, and there's no real right answer to this sort of question.
     
  16. Thom
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    Thom Member

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    I find that keeping to the beginning, middle, and end and creating the 'in between' as I go along frees up my creative style. Locking everything into a comprehensive outline might hinder some writers from going outside their own prescribed 'box.'
     
  17. bleeder4
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    bleeder4 New Member

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    When I first started writing, I would sit down before I started each chapter and note in detail everything that would happen in that chapter. However, more often than not, I found that whilst writing the chapter the characters would guide my writing and events would happen that I'd not even considered - which rendered my finely thought out outline useless. For example, I have a whole two chapters near the beginning devoted to a massive battle taking place in a city and, on my notes I outlined, that battle never happened at all - I just found myself writing it as that was where the characters and story took me. Nowadays, I don't do much outlining any more - I have a single document that outlines a high level overview of the whole world, story and mythology of the series I am writing and a few shorter documents that list a few of the relevant plot points that should happen in the current book, but that's it.
     
  18. Steve Day
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    Steve Day Senior Member

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    If it is a short story, then jump in.
    If it is a novel (100,000 words, a year of your life) you better have some idea of where you are going.
    Try this: write a scene with one of you characters. Four or five pages, a chapter.
    Do it again, with a different character. Then put them together in a third, and see where they want to go.

    Of course all this depends on the sort of fiction you are planning. Crime? Better know the ending, before you begin.
    Seinfeld? Then let them decide where to go. . .
     

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