1. Tamarack
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    Tamarack New Member

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    When do I stop outlining the plot?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Tamarack, Nov 20, 2013.

    I've been working on my plot in Freemind (a mind mapping program) for about 2 weeks and I've made good progress I think so far. I've got it mostly done, i.e., a one line description of each scene, but I find I've kindof stalled just shy of the finish line though I'm pretty clear on how I want it to end.

    So I'm wondering, should I start writing the first draft now or should I slog through to the end of outlining each scene? I don't know if I've just run into a speed bump I need to get over or is this a sign I should move on to the next step.
     
  2. A.M.P.
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    A.M.P. People Buy My Books for the Bio Photo Supporter Contributor

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    I personally do not write stories until I've mulled them over for a while.
    As I can quickly lose interest in them.
    So, if the stories keeps developing in my head over the days, I begin to think of it more and more until I eventually start putting it into concrete form in my head.
    THEN I start writing.

    So, if you are comfortable and happy with how you want to present your story then go for it.
    And what I mean is, you got a voice, a style, a strong idea of how to open the story and how to lead it.
    Just that is enough to start putting bytes unto software.

    If you end up changing stuff around, then meh.
    First drafts are meant to be revised eventually :D
     
  3. Andrae Smith
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    Andrae Smith Gone exploring... in the inner realm... Contributor

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    It really depends on what process works best for you. If you feel you are ready to write, there is no harm in starting. Generally, you will learn a lot more about the actuation of your story as well as the developmental potential from writing than planning. But then again, some people need to have a very thorough map before starting. I've mostly written without a complete plan, but the project I'm working on I'm taking very slowly.

    It's been in my head for months and all I have to show for it are under developed characters. But I waited to see how long the character in mind would stick with me and how much he would prompt me to tell his story. Now that I know for certain that I want to write this story, I'm taking things far more slowly than I ever have putting meticulous thought into the characters, first, and the world they will inhabit. I've gotten to the point of drawing pictures and taking notes, reading up on the type of fiction I want this to be, and even interviewing characters.

    But that's the process I've chosen because I want to know where I've realized how much easier it is to start once I know the core story and the elements I want to string together and so on. 2 weeks simply won't cover it for me. It was enough for a short story I'm doing in my fiction class though. But again, if you've planned most of it and have a general idea of how you want it to end, then I say go ahead and start writing if you think you are ready. It can't hurt you.

    Just remember, the best endings are surprising but inevitable! ;)
     
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  4. Nilfiry
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    Nilfiry Contributing Member

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    Start on your first draft. I think you have outlined enough. You can go back and change things later. Sometimes, you will not get new ideas until you actually start writing the first draft.
     
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  5. EllBeEss
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    EllBeEss Contributing Member

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    You can either mull it over and see if anything comes to you or you can just start writing. I'm sure you'll figure it out in the end.
    Personally I only outline stuff in my head because other wise I need everything down which means I stress about planning rather than writing.
     
  6. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I agree with Andrae. You're nearly there. Start writing.

    I think an outline is most helpful if you have a specific ending in mind. It will help make sure you get there. I know I'm creating one for my second novel, because the ending is fixed, and I not only need to 'get there' but there are lots of research details (train journeys, time of year issues, etc) that need to fit. My characters are already fully created (it's a sequel to my first novel) so I feel I can work with them very easily now.

    However, I wrote my first novel in snippets. I wrote scenes out of order, as they shaped themselves in my head. While I had a vague idea of what was to happen in the story, and what the ending would be, it wasn't nearly as fixed as this new one is. That allowed me to change lots of things along the way and made my story grow in an organic way. Took lots of editing later to remove the bits that were no longer necessary, and to shape the ones that were, but I am very pleased with the result.

    If you only have a beginning in mind, or characters who intrigue you but you're not sure how they will develop, and you're not even sure what kind of a story you are actually writing, then I'd say don't become fixed on outlining. It can put you in a creative straitjacket.

    However, we all work in different ways, don't we? Roll on diversity!
     
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  7. Renee J
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    Renee J Contributing Member

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    I think you can start writing. I have an outline, but I keep revising it as I write my first draft. Things become more clear as I go. You may get a better idea of an ending while you write. And even if you write an ending, you can always change it.
     
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  8. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    Before I started my current project, I filled the better parts of two large notebooks with research notes and an outline. I had a chapter outline, with a one or two sentence summary of the chapter and a list of the main characters in each, and then I started doing somewhat more detailed outlines, including timelines, for each chapter. After a while I stopped. I found I was making too many changes to each chapter as I went, an in one case, I conducted a tedious internal debate over whether the chapter should even be written (ended up merging it into another chapter). Going forward, I have a historical timeline for each chapter to keep my setting focused, but that's all.

    The best outlines are fluid enough so that you can change direction when you need to.
     
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  9. Andrae Smith
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    Andrae Smith Gone exploring... in the inner realm... Contributor

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    Hmm, I never really thought of it like that, but I think you are absolutely right. Thanks for the tip ;)

    I have to agree here. Fluidity makes room for creativity, which makes for a better story in most cases. Even filmmakers do re-shoots and add things later to make better movies (sorry for the comparison ha ha), it's all a part of the creative process.
     
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  10. Tamarack
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    Tamarack New Member

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    I do find myself mostly fiddling with what's already there rather than making real progress and the consensus is generally to start writing so that's what I'm going to do.

    Usually, my story ideas aren't much more than a setting and one character. No goals, no conflict, nothing storyish at all. The plotting really helped turn my setting into what I think may be a viable story. But it's easy for me to get stuck.

    Thanks for all your input.
     
  11. JayG
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    JayG Banned Contributor

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    Okay, let me ask a few questions.

    You say you’ve done a description of each scene. Do they each end in disaster for the protagonist? I ask, because most new writers think of a scene as they would for a film, the action that takes place in one setting.

    Does each scene have constantly rising tension? And from scene to scene, does the tension continue to rise while options narrow as it flows toward the climax? I ask both because most new writers don’t know they should be doing that, and because if you do have that progression you shouldn’t be having trouble with the climax since that’s where everything is leading.

    My concern is that you’re trying to structure your novel without fully understanding the structure of a novel—not because I suspect some lack in you, but because among new writers it’s pretty much endemic.

    What I’m suggesting is that if the points I mention may be a problem it may pay to dig a bit deeper into structural and nuts-and-bolts issues of writing fiction for the printed word, to help you build the armature in which the clay of your words will rest.
     
  12. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Ah, so somebody else out there besides me creates and uses timelines? :)

    I find them invaluable. In fact, without a timeline, I can screw up a historical novel, big time.

    The difference between a timeline and an outline is that the timeline is merely a linear record of events that underpin the story. An outline is a synopsis-record of the story itself.

    For example, I needed to know the dates of the American Civil War (which is the start of my timeline) because I needed to know if my characters' parents would have been affected by it (they were.) I was able to slip relevant backstory for my characters into that timeline, to keep everything on track for my story. Readers don't see the timeline (or all that much of the backstory), but I refer to it constantly. I need to know when real occurrences took place in relation to my story elements.

    Most of my timeline is year-by year, but as it got closer to the story's time frame, I broke it down into months. Then, for the story time frame itself, I've actually built myself a calendar, so things happen on certain days. If something takes a week, I want to know when that week begins and ends, etc.

    As my characters do things, the dates get recorded in the timeline. It's more a diary, written after the fact, than an outline to plan the future. It keeps me straight on when things happened, and makes me aware of how long things take to happen.
     
  13. Tamarack
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    Tamarack New Member

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    There's probably not as much tension as there needs to be yet. I do still have to work on obstacles and such but I've stalled a bit. As others have noted, it's probably time to write a bit and more of the plot will become evident. Yesterday was interesting in that I began writing a scene and noticed that it didn't really work so I tried to think of another way to present the plot point and did actually come up with something much better.
     
  14. SuperVenom
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    SuperVenom Contributing Member

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    As long as you have enough to keep you covered . Outline one step ahead and i will keep you from digressing. The danger however if you go too deep is you stop the novel evolving organically because you can end up forcing the path ahead.
     
  15. DrWhozit
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    DrWhozit Banned

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    I only outline for non-fiction. Fiction has so many input sources that, for me, an outline is a waste of time. Rules, even in the real world, are subject to breaking precedents. In your own created world, the only ones that matter are those you choose to invent. The only rule is that you must define your genre and that may be diverse and hybridized.

    In mainstream physics, we are told we must follow along with accepted paradigms. Bull! Einstein didn't discover relativity by following the rules. He discovered it by redefining their flaws. Now some follow his flaws so dogmatically defined as rules, for example by dismissing tachyons and tardyons. A much lesser some follow in his footsteps by completing the ones partially eroded by the sands and seas of time.

    Writing fiction especially is like drawing and painting. First we learn the rules of drawing to define our shapes and paint within the lines. Later a seasoned painter rarely touches the white canvas' surface with a pencil. Even later (this is me) the canvas is painted black or Payne's Gray, to be imbued by using color only to represent what light would demand. Computers paint this way because a group of programmers were both scientists and artists, understanding how to teach the computer to calculate where the light should fall and reflect, then fall and reflect again and again.

    In the days of using a typewriter, an outline was a good idea. Then came the electric typewriter easing the fingers' work. Then the electronic and the word processor. Now we have these memory gobbling machines that let us see what it will look like on paper (WYSIWYG), allow us to cascade 20 different versions of the same piece like a salad bar of words. Set your salad bar turn your work into a delicious feast.
     
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  16. EmmaWrite
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    EmmaWrite Member

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    I believe that if a writer has a beginning and an end, then once they start writing they'll find a way to connect the two. If you finish the first draft and find parts of the plot are left out, then you can always go back and edit. Sounds like you just need to have confidence in your story and dive in.
     

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