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  1. Vladcasm
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    Vladcasm New Member

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    Writing Every Day (Outlining)

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Vladcasm, Mar 6, 2013.

    Hi,

    This topic's been eating away at my brain for some time now, and I wish to hear your thoughts on the matter.

    See, almost every website on writing I came across advises writers to write EVERY DAY in order to become great writers. Now, I've been following that advice religiously for about five months now, and, until recently, it's been going great. In fact, it got to the point where I don't even consider NOT WRITING EVERY DAY as a legitimate option (and it never happened to me yet...) However, one of the problems of writing every day for me was that I barely had time to plan out how my story would unfold. It didn't bother me at first and I just kept on typing and typing and typing until SURPRISE I wrote myself into a corner...

    Now, this isn't about HOW to get myself out of the corner. I know that I need to rewrite the whole damn thing for it to make sense again, but I'll NEED an outline for that to work.

    So here's the problem: I don't consider writing the outline as ACTUAL writing. I don't mean to insult any outliners out there, but IT IS just a means to an end (actually writing the story.) So while I may write an outline for the story, I don't FEEL like I actually made any real progress during the day because I'm not actually writing the story but merely planning to write it...

    How do I stop feeling this way? How do I stop feeling bad about not actually getting the words down on paper? Should I work on a smaller project that doesn't require an outline WHILE I'm writing the outline for my story?

    Again I've followed the advice of writing every day like a complete and utter lunatic and breaking away from it right now seems impossible to me. I'm afraid that if I'll do that, I'll just stop writing altogether.

    I know I'm probably getting too worked up over this, but I would really appreciate hearing what you guys have to say about this.

    Sorry if I sound like an incoherent doofus... :D
     
  2. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    There's just no right or wrong here. Sometimes I write out a scene, like I did yesterday. But other times I don't have enough time, and I've thought of some idea how I want the scene to unfold. In that case, like I did today, I spit the story out in quick summary sentences. I [bracket] these sections so if I die, my son will know it was an outline, not a horrible 'tell, not showing' section of the novel. ;)
     
  3. NellaFantasia
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    My first thought would be to skip that part and write ahead, or write something totally ludicrous to get yourself out of the corner so you can continue, while making a memo to go back at some point and fix it. But I don't know how comfortable you are with such things.

    If you really can't afford to skip a day or two, then you could always do what you said. Write for another project while outlining your current one. I don't see anything wrong with that plan so long as you remember to come back to it.
     
  4. mbinks89
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    mbinks89 Active Member

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    You're right. Continue writing everyday. As for outlining, it varies from person to person. I rarely have but the most inchoate of outlines, and just let the story take me where it wants to go. You seem like a more structured writer. Maybe, throughout your day when not writing, jot down notes about your story. Keep mulling it over. Go jogging and just let your idea sit in your head. Writing everyday is essential -- outlining, not so much. Just write. Write write write. Fuck the planning, it'll lock you down, like it is now. When you write yourself into a corner, write yourself out of one. Let Deus Ex Machine swoop down wearing the mask of plausibility and save your story.
     
  5. Vladcasm
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    Vladcasm New Member

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    Thank you for your answers so far!

    mbinks89:

    Well I wouldn't exactly call myself a 'structured writer', but I do keep SOME things in mind when writing the story. I pantsed my way through it, and around the time I got to the middle I already had an ending in mind. So I can't exactly tell planning to go 'fuck itself' completely because then I just wouldn't know where I'm heading :) (FYI, I constantly write down notes for my story). Besides, one of the reasons I'm writing the story now is BECAUSE I want to get to that specific ending.

    So I guess my only options are to either 1) rewrite the whole story so that the ending makes sense and doesn't feel forced (for which I'll need the outline) 2) write myself out of the corner with a plausible deus ex machina...

    Hmm... tough... :redface:
     
  6. SwampDog
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    SwampDog Contributing Member

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    What is the object of deciding to write every day? Is it to contribute to your current work and move it along? Therein can lie problems to accede to the pressure of writing and the stress of that will show.

    A long time ago undertaking a writing course, I adoped the adage and put up a notice over my desk - I MUST WRITE SOMETHING EVERY DAY. Nothing to do necessarily with the current work, but to simply write - something, anything - to keep the thought processes going and the mind active. And by doing that all sorts of other ideas come out. No minimum, no maximum. Just something, anything.

    Just a thought.

    Cheers
     
  7. Vladcasm
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    Vladcasm New Member

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    SwampDog:

    Well for me it's less about moving my work along (granted that's very important too) and more about not letting the habit of writing die out.

    Many times people set goals for themselves that they end up breaking because they let days go by without actually committing themselves to the task. One day slips, the next day etc... until eventually the idea of stopping the habit doesn't seem like THAT big of a deal in the first place.

    So yeah, it's more of a motivational move (albeit a nerve-wracking one), but it's better than stopping altogether. I think many writers here would agree with me on SOME level. :p
     
  8. thewordsmith
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    thewordsmith Contributing Member Contributor

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    If I may, allow me to quote my tae kwon do instructor here. "Practice makes permanent." That is to say, rather than 'practice makes perfect', if you are practicing the wrong thing or the wrong way, you are embedding poor practices rather than the correct ones. Which means, writing every day will not make you a great writer. Writing with an eye to learning your craft and improving your skills will make you great.

    So, does writing, just writing until you "write [yourself] into a corner", qualify as productive, right writing? If you are writing with mindless fervor and no clear picture of where you are going, probably not. And, on the flip side, does writing an outline, a roadmap to give your writing direction, give you insight into your writing? Does it help you be better at telling your story because you understand more fully exactly WHAT that story is? Does it help you to see 'the road ahead' and, therefore, help you to know where your story is taking you? Probably more so than aimless writing. So, would that qualify as productive, right writing? Unequivocably yes.

    I am not a big advocate of sitting down and writing an outline. I KNOW the outline before I ever begin. I know, essentially fully realized, the crux of the story beginning-middle-end. But it's pretty much all in my head. (They tell me the voices, the tiny people in my bedroom at night, and the people who keep following me in the shadows are too. But I don't believe 'them'. 'They' lie!) Seriously, though. I do have an outline when I write. I just never ... (almost) never write them down. I may, in fact, be developing a story concept for weeks, perhaps months before I do start writing. I may plug miscellaneous bits and pieces of ideas into a file for future reference and to help me remember the original idea. But to sit down and mindfully write an outline? No. Not really.

    But if you write and write with no clear direction, then you probably ... most definitely need a written outline. And, YES, that qualifies as 'real' writing.

    (NOTE: I had to alter my assertion that I 'never write them down' because I do have one story concept, which I hope to be able to start working soon, for which I have a directory file wherein I wrote two sentences which encompassed the entirety of the story. And THAT qualifies as my outline.) It is rumored that Neil Simon wrote the pitch for "The Odd Couple" in one sentence - "Two guys move in together, one's a neatnik the other's a slob." That's it. With little addition, that could also qualify as a very succinct outline.

    Know your characters? Know where they are going? Know why? Know what their problem is that leads/pushes them? Know how they conquer that problem? Figure those things out and you've got your story. But, until you know those things, you don't know what you are writing. Good luck.
     
  9. TimHarris
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    TimHarris Senior Member

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    Writing every day is fine as long as you dont lose sight of of the overall stoy. Ask yourself after you are done for the day, if what your wrote have achieved what it was supposed to do in order for the story to move forward. If not, I suggest you rewrite what you just wrote the next day, or discard it and write something else. There is no shame in spending a lot of time writing something you end up deleting as long as you learn something from it.
     
  10. Vladcasm
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    Vladcasm New Member

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    thewordsmith:


    I already did mention that writing every day wasn't just about improving as a writer (make no mistake, I take my time to learn the craft), but about forming the habit of writing every day, because I know that if I don't do that, I'll just stop writing eventually. My problem was accepting the outline as part of that writing process, since the focus is on the structure of the story and not the craft itself.

    Now, I'm kinda softening up to the idea of working on the outline before writing the story itself, because you're probably right: I won't improve much as a writer unless I know where the story is heading, and I'll NEED an outline for that to work (granted I don't have voices in my head to guide me along, except for that one guy...)

    I can only hope that writing from an outline won't make my writing too bland since let me tell ya, you can come up with some pretty imaginative stuff when you're just making the story up as you go (even if it doesn't always make a lot of sense...)

    Anyway, thank you for your reply. Very inspiring (especially your tae kwon do instructor's quote :D)
     
  11. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    I agree overall with everything that's been said here. I think the big thing about the 'write every day' adage is the whole 10,000 hours philosophy (i.e. that to really be good at something, you need to have done it for 10,000 hours -- Malcolm Gladwell talks about this in his book Outliers.) The whole point is that the more you do something, the better you'll be at doing it.

    While it's useful also in achieving a particular goal -- such as finishing one novel, if it begins to actually hamper the progress on that novel, then it's not helping you as much as it should. I'd suggest either writing some background scenes with your characters that you don't intend to put in the story (for example, if the story takes place when your character is 30 years old, imagine some typical day he had when he was 15 and write a scene from that day. Don't write it with the intent of putting it anywhere in your story -- it can be about something totally irrelevant, but it might give you some insight into your character.) OR, write something completely different -- a short story, for example. You could enter one of the short story contests here, or those on other sites. That keeps you writing, but you won't encounter the problem of 'writing yourself into a corner' in your WIP if you're not in that grove at the moment.
     
  12. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Well, having been working on my novel now for over a year, I'd say writing everyday is necessary. In addition to just putting the story elements down, there's research in a dozen areas from symbolism to publishing. It's amazingly time consuming. Maybe not for everyone, but I imagine my experience is common.
     
  13. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Having a framework doesn't mean you are tied to it. My current work has whole sections that are different from the initial story I wrote out when I started.

    I don't believe there is a right or wrong here. I wrote my entire story out in a marathon of typing, paying little attention to how it read and what worked and what didn't. And the ending was up in the air.

    That now serves as my framework. Some people might have that initial story in their head, I needed mine on paper.

    Now I'm writing the chapters and scenes and paying careful attention to the actual work. I'll throw an outline in for a chapter if I have an idea I don't want to lose and not enough time to write it out.
     
  14. ms627
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    ms627 Member

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    Similar to what GingerCoffee said, what may work for you is a "framework" but not a complete outline. Rather than points A-Z laid out, have points A, G, and Z. Then you can surprise yourself with what happens in between, the meat of the story. I also cannot have a story just in my head -- it becomes jumbled mumbo before long unless I write out a few lines. Normally, I have a vague idea of where I want my characters to end up, and why. Then I can throw a few roller coasters in here and there.
     
  15. jwideman
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    jwideman Senior Member

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    "Write every day" is the most widely misunderstood bit of writing advice. It is meant to instill the habit of writing in those who lack it. It includes writing letters, forum posts, blog posts, outlines, journal entries, and so on, as well as actual story writing.
    It should be amended to: Write something every day, until it becomes natural.
     
  16. Vladcasm
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    Vladcasm New Member

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    So the "framework" is something like a rough draft? Perhaps keeping just a few plot points in mind while at the same time letting the ideas pour out without much regard for structure, inconsistencies or plot holes/problems etc...?

    I always considered it a a more effective way to write a story than to outline the entire thing beforehand because you get both the benefits of letting the story surprise you (more 'aha!' moments), while at the same time you can see what works and what doesn't and revise accordingly in the second draft...

    Also, writing yourself into a corner becomes less of a problem since you can just skip over a bad scene, take a note and change the whole thing during revision.
     
  17. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    You're right that outlining isn't actually writing - very often with me though, once I get into the swing of things, I end up writing bits of dialogue. Dialogue is almost always the thing that comes to me first when I outline. When don't you make a little outline, like a short one, and make sure you write out the scene you just outlined? Then you're kinda doing both, scene by scene. So you're not so much following an outline as you are simply thinking ahead before you write.

    I dunno, for me I like things clear cut. I like to try and plan it all first and then write. But there's nothing stopping me to write a scene here and there if it so takes my fancy :)

    Not everyone can write without an outline - I discovered I was one of those who need an outline after I ditched 80,000 words and wanted to cry about it and pack it all in. For some it doesn't bother them that that happens. For me, it most certainly does. I need to be able to see a finishing line if I am to be motivated to keep working hard. Hence, for me, an outline is quite necessary.

    For others though, this kills their drive to write at all. For me, knowing what I'm about to write actually excites me. So, each to their own. Find your own way :) whatever works.
     
  18. Vladcasm
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    Vladcasm New Member

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    Writing out the scenes as I outline them? Seems kind of pointless to me. What if you get to a point in your outline where you get stuck? Not only will you have to change the outline to fit your plan, but you'll have to scrape all of the scenes that you've written as well. Seems like a time-waster to me. I mean, don't writers make outlines so that they'll see the FULL picture even before they begin writing their story (granted they can change it accordingly later but the road is pretty much paved more or less...)

    Yeah, I'm starting to realize that as well. Of course in my case the crying, hair-pulling and contemplating suicide part started around the 40,000 word mark, and only after a month (right now) did I FINALLY figure out how to keep the story going. :D

    But that's the thing: Like you, I would actually love to focus on HOW to write something as opposed to WHAT to write in the first place. I think an outline would probably do me a world of good in that regard. Besides, nothing's stopping me from actually changing parts of the outline and fixing the story during revision.
     
  19. Vladcasm
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    Vladcasm New Member

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    Wow. So this actually helped me a lot.

    I actually went over everything I wrote and found the perfect Deus Ex Machina to keep the story going. In fact, after playing around with the idea, I realized that it opened up some really interesting opportunities for me to take. Guess it goes to show that writing yourself into a corner actually does have its advantages and allows for these earsplittingly loud "FUCK YEAH--...I mean "Eureka!" *rolleyes* moments.

    Thank you all for your advice, guys (especially mbinks89 :D). I'll definitely consider everything when I'm working on another project or if, god forbid, I get stuck on this one again (Please god, don't let that happen. Yes, I know I don't believe in you. Yes, I know I've killed people for no reason. Yes, I know I'm going to hell... SHUT UP!!)

    So yeah... thanks!
     
  20. Sanjuricus
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    Sanjuricus Active Member

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    I wrote an outline using a "tell don't show" ethos. I numbered each "scene" in my outline. Some numbers contained little more than a sentence, others I used to put ideas and some dialogue in because the ideas were there, present at the time of writing.

    When it came to writing my first draft I simply worked through this numbered sequence. I would write everything I needed to write for number 4 before I moved on to number 5 etc. It worked just fine for me and if you're into writing software is almost exactly how scrivener works with its corkboard and index cards. :)

    I'd also add a bit of advice into this: By all means read about how others write, read up on tips for this and hints for that but whatever you do, don't let anyone else dictate how you should be writing. Write for you, to suit you and your lifestyle and the way your mind works. Listen to music while writing or don't. Outline your story or don't. It's up to you and if you're serious about writing you'll stick with it until you find out what is right for you.
     
  21. Vladcasm
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    Vladcasm New Member

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    I tend to not take any advice too literally. But yeah, as a newbie I definitely need to try out techniques that have worked for others. It's only by doing a little bit of trial-and-error that I can find out what truly works for me. The thing is not giving up if something DOESN'T work.

    Thanks Sanjuricus. I'll definitely try outlining my work next time (Though honestly, even pantsing is technically outlining. Just that you keep it in your head). I'm just glad that I figured out how to write myself out of the corner that's been agonizing me for over a month now.

    P.S. That inflated Morpheus pic is seriously freaking me out by the way... o_O
     

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