1. pretzelkarma
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    pretzelkarma New Member

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    Why do i need to write an outline?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by pretzelkarma, Jun 5, 2012.

    My question is this:
    WHY.

    Because i have IDEAS galore, i have them all stacked in mental filing cabinets... the problem is, i write an outline and i never stick to it, or i get muddled in defining it to the point it's written in the outline and then i can't follow it. :(

    Outlines cramp me, they overdefine a situation in which i can't creativley work in.
     
  2. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    You don't need to. Some writers use outlines, some don't. It sounds like you're in the "don't" category.
     
  3. indy5live
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    indy5live Active Member

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    I didn't write an outline, I just wanted to get the story from my head and onto paper. So you can definitely write a novel without an outline but I really wish I would have done some kind of organization beforehand because there has been a ton of rewriting, much more than I had originally thought would be needed as I was going along (and I ended up making an outline anyways after the fact just to keep everything in order)...so whatever works best for you I suppose. My next novel will definitely be outlined.
     
  4. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    Some people love them, others find them useless. If you're in the latter category, don't worry about them. If, however, one day you get stuck and think it might help, give it a try. You never know.
     
  5. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I don't do outlines.

    Your mileage may vary.
     
  6. MissRis
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    MissRis Contributing Member

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    I started with a vague idea, but my story took on a life of its own and it has shifted into a completely different direction. Now that I'm working on rewriting/editing, it's still developing. I feel, personally, that outlines stagnate the story and can lead to frustrations. But as others have suggested, it's completely personal preference.
     
  7. Siena
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    Siena Active Member

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    Why?

    Because it usually makes the job easier, faster, focused etc. That's what the white board is for and what pros usually do.

    But if it doesn't work for you, then don't.
     
  8. killbill
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    killbill Contributing Member

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    I totally get what you are saying. I mean I know outlines are suppose to help me not lose sight of the plot and stuff, but I find that I am almost every time not sticking to the outline because my story keeps evolving as I write it.
     
  9. pretzelkarma
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    pretzelkarma New Member

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    I don't mind jotting ideas out and outlining a LITTLE but i have a whole notebook with outlines and it basically killed my ability to follow it; but i think my LARGEST problem is i wish to god i could've had another author by me yelling at me if i screwed something up; i spend most of my time (like am oron) on Deviant ARt; where i think "Ok i'm getting favs, but no critiques" people are a fraid to TALK about things on there i think; so the idea that i came here means i'm going to have a wild ride i guess LOL - but yes, i have a big A4 notebook full of ideas and outlines, and even TIMELINES and charachter outlines, and frankly i don't follow it at all anymore :(
     
  10. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    My stories evolve too, but that is how I use the outline. I let the novel evolve as I write the outline, until my ideas are clear I keep planning, and when I feel ready and know exactly what its gonna be about, I start writing it. Planners like to discover their stories too, but in the planning stage.
     
  11. AmyHolt
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    AmyHolt Contributing Member

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    I didn't outline my first novel and had to do tons or fixing when I finished my rought draft.

    I still don't do tons of outlining but now I write a mini synopsis and that helps keep me focused and helps ensure the characters have a story arc and there is a plot. However, I don't feel any real comment to the synopsis if something better comes along I'll jump ship and write up a new synopsis.
     
  12. Show
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    Show Contributing Member Contributor

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    I outline in my head. I may use loose outlines from time to time but once the outlines start having rules, they become more burdensome than helpful.
     
  13. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    What Show said ^^^

    I always have a "map" of the story in my head. Events close to where I'm currently writing have the most detail, followed by events close to the end of the story.

    Unlike an outline, my map is constantly changing as I write. Major events rarely shift much, but the details are continually evolving and adjusting and refining.

    A story is a living entity, and I must let it grow as it requires. An outline is too restrictive, and soon becomes obsolete.

    But that is how my mind operates, and is not a good approach for everyone. I literally visualize the plots as streams of consequences of actions, and I can keep track of a lot of independent elements in my head. But that works only because I only "cache" the most relevant items in the foreground.

    So for me, an outline is too rigid a structure, and too much effort to maintain. Other people work better with a framework nailed down on paper, so they can push back on their planned course if they start to drift.

    I rely on the drift. For me, it works. For everyone else, learn how your mind works best, and adapt your process accordingly.
     
  14. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    As I've said before, I start with very little. Like Cogito, I have a "map," but I discover my map as I write, the way a lab rat figures his way around a maze. I eventually get to the end, but there are wrong turns along the way, and those scenes get cut. The map is now in much clearer focus. I may discover quicker ways to get to the end than I had, so some scene rearrangement is called for. Now I have a first draft that has taught me what my story is really about. Work on the second draft goes much more quickly, and I rarely have to do more than two drafts.
     
  15. kingzilla
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    kingzilla Senior Member

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    I only use outlines for big projects or non-linear stories. Otherwise, outlines, as mentioned, are restricting.
     
  16. Erato
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    Erato Contributing Member

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    I would write an outline if the story I've thought of is either very complex, or very vague - in either case I'm likely to forget it. I may or may not stick to this outline in writing the first draft. But I find that to have my plot laid out in front of me is greatly helpful, because I'm less likely to take the story down a wrong turn and get stuck - it gives me a direction to go in.

    This approach won't work for everyone - for instance, people who are capable of holding an entire novel in their heads at once, or those who feel constrained by fixing the story ahead of time. This approach works for me, and I use it for the reasons stated above. If it doesn't work for you, don't do it.
     
  17. pretzelkarma
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    pretzelkarma New Member

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    Wow so much information so little time :p
     
  18. Program
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    Program Member

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    You don't have to write an outline, just like you don't have to have blueprints when you build a house. But I'd think writing an outline would generally have a better product than writing without one. But then, maybe you aren't building something as big as a house. It all depends on the size of your project.
     
  19. thewriterswhisperer
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    thewriterswhisperer New Member

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    Hello,

    Just to say I'm new here. When I began my writing, I was like yourself - always trying to write out the story before the outline. I had countless ideas to write about, but when it came down to it, those countless ideas was not fleshed out enough and I soon found I need to plan it out by writing an outline.

    When you write an outline to your story, it is much easier to keep control and have a route on how your characters are lead through the story.

    Hope this helps. :)
     
  20. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I don't think this house-blueprint analogy holds very well. A house has to satisfy certain engineering and functionality requirements before it can fulfill its aesthetic requirements. It has to be built strongly enough to stand up in all weather over many decades. It has to be wired and plumbed and heated and, in many places, air-conditioned. It has to satisfy fire and other safety codes. All of these factors, and others, pretty much require detailed plans.

    A novel, or any story, can be much more free-form. It can be as straightforward or as maddeningly baroque as the author wants it to be. It can be written in a direct, journalistic style or it can be dreamlike and hallucinatory. Some of these choices, even very complex ones, may be easier for a writer to handle without an outline than with one. Freed of most of the engineering requirements, a story can take almost any shape and style.
     
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  21. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    There's no rule saying you MUST have an outline. But often, especially for a first-time project like a novel, an outline can be beneficial.

    For you, obviously, don't write in a way that you can't even follow. I mean, what kind of an outline would that be??

    You'll find you're more able to stick to your outline if you have an ending, a theme, or a goal you want to reach. When you have a direction, everything points towards it, and there will be fewer things to change because you know what you must do.

    For me, I write a bullet point framework, or outline, whatever you wanna call it. General points like "A and B go to Nottingham. A meets C. Dialogue with C. B is attacked by monsters. C rescues him and joins their journey towards Birmingham." - I don't write how A meets C, I don't know what the dialogue is with C, and I don't know how C rescues B. I just know those are the actions. This allows for much creativity even as you write :)

    And if an event no longer fits in with your overall goal, things have changed, fine - go with the flow. In my plan, my MC was meant to get arrested. It never happens. I had a bunch of refugees in chapter 3. They're all gone now (meaning I deleted the next 2 chapters). But my goal never changes - my ending is fixed. For me, the outline doesn't matter half as much as the ending - your direction, your roots that the story all comes down to, that defines your story and exactly where your characters need to go.

    Some prefer to just write as it comes and then when the story is finished, go back with a rewrite and take out the plot holes and resolve the kinks then. It's much more work, it means deleting probably over 100k words, but if it means you get a novel done, why not?

    For me, deleting a chunk like that makes me feel like a failure. So I plan. I still end up deleting like 100k but it feels better because I can see when it will finish.
     
  22. twelveninetysix
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    twelveninetysix Member

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    Often when writing a story I'll write the key scenes first then use ideas and details that emerge there to help fill in the gaps. There's a lot of editing to do after to fix continuity but otherwise I find that the story is much better and more believable towards the end than at the start and I have to nearly rewrite the start anyway.
     
  23. Trilby
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    Trilby Contributing Member Contributor

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    Some writers do detailed outlines/story skeletons/spider maps and character bibles and swear by them; other writers prefer to write free hand and discover, as they write, where the story/characters take them.

    We are all individuals, there is no 'one size fits all'

    I kick ideas around in my head, could be for hours or weeks, and when I have a beginning, some idea of the middle and I must have a end in my head I start writing. I have to know the end of my story, before I start writing, just so I know where I am going, on the journey I may change my mind and take a different path and end up somewhere else, but who cares? It works for me.
     
  24. Word Dancer
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    Word Dancer Member

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    You don't need to use an outline, you don't need to not use an outline either. I rarely used detailed outlines of a story, I usually just write down the major characters and some information about the world of the story I don't want to forget.

    Even if you use an outline there is no rules to say how detailed it must be.
    Maybe you want to sketch out a detailed course of events for the story, maybe you just want to write down a couple basic events you want to happen at certain points in the story such as:
    After John gets past the river he breaks his leg somehow. Or
    Jane will discover the hidden file but not tell Fred who already knows at this point.
    And don't be afraid to change things.
    Maybe you have it written down that a character is going to be killed off at a certain point but when you reach that point in writing the story you find the story would be better if he survived? Just because your outline says something it does not mean it's written in stone.
     
  25. maidahl
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    maidahl Banned

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    I know of a nonfiction author, some old guy, who writes out his stories with ruled paper and gel pen and says he never changes his word. He just writes it, front to back, with a vague mental framework. No outline.
     

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