1. Zombie_Chinchilla
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    Zombie_Chinchilla Member

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    Writing Without An Outline?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Zombie_Chinchilla, Nov 1, 2010.

    How do you do it?

    Seriously, I've heard of people writing without a single thing planned before hand. How on earth can someone achieve that? To me, that just seems impossible.

    Or is it just me? I have written short stories without knowing what will come out- but when I'm done, I read it over and cringe. Is it just that I write better when it's all planned out?
     
  2. Egil1Eye
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    Egil1Eye Member

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    I've done short stories without direct outlines, per se, but they were 'short', some 'very short', but in my experience I find that at least a basic outline of some sort, although not absolutely neccessary, certainly does give you direction so that you are not tangenting off into left field somewhere.
     
  3. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I'm so much the opposite of you that I can barely understand needing to ask the question. I start with a strong sense of my main characters and their setting. They have needs that I understand that motivate them to embark on a story. I have a provisional ending in mind, but just as a general direction in which to head - I think the writing would be a failure if the provisional ending turns out to be the actual ending. By that I mean that if a better, "righter" ending hasn't come to me during the writing, I haven't been thinking deeply enough about the story.

    I go from there. There's no outline as such, just characters, a problem, and a general direction. Everything is created during the writing of the first draft. The first draft is for finding out what the story is about. Once it's done I know what I've got, and I chop stuff here and add stuff there, sculpting the story into its final form.

    The idea of working from an outline is terrifying to me. It would be like volunteering to be a galley slave. Ugh.
     
  4. Taylee91
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    Taylee91 Carpe Diem Contributor

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    Maybe you do. You're not the only one. I can't write for my life without an outline. I feel so lost and undecisive if I don't have an inkling of what comes next.

    It's impossible for us to imagine not using an outline because it's against our nature not to use one. Some authors are born this way with a "story telling" ability. They just throw in characters, conflicts, etc. and come out on top with a best seller. It's just the way they are.

    Have you tried the Snowflake method? Google it. The closest thing to an outline I get is something really close to that. Just break down your general synopsis, piece by piece, then expand it part by part. That is how I do it :D
     
  5. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    I don't use outlines, but I do have an idea of where the story is going to go. If I start writing without a sense of direction, I find that I can't finish the story. If you need to outline, then go for it. I don't see any reason to write without one if you aren't comfortable with the idea.
     
  6. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    I wonder whether writers who need to outline tend to write plot-driven fiction, and writers who don't tend to write character-driven fiction?
     
  7. Taylee91
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    Taylee91 Carpe Diem Contributor

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    ^That makes perfect sense, digitig. Yes, I think you are right. As Mallory said to me just a while ago, "... No amount of planning will help with character development. It comes on its own throughout the story even if you don't deliberately plan it."
     
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  8. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    :) :) :) :)

    I don't outline character development stuff, but I do have to outline for plot progression and subplots.
     
  9. Naiyn
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    Naiyn Contributing Member

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    I've tried with and without outlining, and had terrible results with both. My outlined stories were rigid and had no character depth, and my non-outline stories were pointless ramblings.

    So I tried combining the two.

    In my WIP, I suppose you could call it a type of outline. I basically write 2-3 paragraphs that summerize each chapter as it will be told from the VPC's perspective. This gives me direction and keeps the storyline moving, while at the same time I can see my characters coming to life before the actual writing begins.
     
  10. w176
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    w176 Contributing Member Contributor

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    No they are not. Improvisation is like any set of skills. It takes practice. Lots of it. But it one thing some people practice a lot in real life situation, like lying or related something that happened to others, and trying to figure out what is happening. But there is nothing inborn with it.

    Well perhaps one element of it is. Have you ever met a young child that havn't been able to ramble on in their games and come up with loads of stories that don't make much sense at all. Just coming up with stuff out of your head without censoring yourself comes easy to most normal children, but spinning the things you come up with to a story that make sense is what takes practice and skill.

    Improvising isn't hard. With a instructor you can get people into the right mindset in half an hour. Even if that doesn't mean that you become great at it without practice. But it isn't inborn. Its not a magical skill you born or not born it. It a set of skills you learn and practice. It's a way of thinking and working anyone can learn.

    Your outlines start as a blank sheet as well, and then you begin to play around with ideas developing a outline.

    One of the greatest hindrance of improvisation is not that people can't do it, but that people is afraid of doing what pop out the top of their head, feels natural and obvious for them in case other wont view it as "original", creative or smart enough.

    Anyone who want to learn how improvisation as method to develop, scenes characters and stories can take at look at "Impro. Improvisation for the theathre." by Keith Johnstone.
     
  11. HorusEye
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    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

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    This is a really good point. I think too many writers are trying to surprise and impress themselves, so they feel forced to contrive stuff. Thing is, if you really know your story, it will seem obvious to you -- and that's not a bad thing. It may still surprise and impress everyone else, because they haven't been inside your head.
     
  12. w176
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    w176 Contributing Member Contributor

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    One of the thesis of improvisation theater that whats feels natural and obvious to you will wield a good result. Cause thats what both your subconscious and conscious minds agree thats a good choice. And it will be experienced as original by other because you perspective and background is unique.

    If we say that a middle aged man heading to the gym, a young boy and a Greek young cleaning lady get stuck in a elevator, each one of us will see different obvious way that a scene will develop and what sort of conversation and reaction they will have.
     
  13. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I don't use an outline for short stories. Often, I don't even fully know what the story is going to be about or how it is going to come out when I sit down to start it. I just start typing and keep typing until it is done. I know that sounds vague, but I don't know how else to explain it. For me, not trying to outline it or being bound to the structure of an outline is a plus.
     

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