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Do you use outlines or fly by the seat of your pants when writing?

  1. I use outlines and structured plots.

    16.7%
  2. I just write.

    16.7%
  3. Combination of both.

    66.7%
  1. Xboxlover

    Xboxlover Member

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    Creating outlines and plots. Thoughts?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Xboxlover, Aug 13, 2017.

    So I'm all in favor with writing down my idea's and creating my plot outlines. But as I was referring to one of my outlines tonight, as I was writing. (I use them to keep track of where I'm at in the story.) I noticed that I made a vague outline. Too vague... Now I do know what I am doing with my story regardless but I felt it doesn't do me any favors to have a vague outline either because I have to sit and think through a scene. Example: conflict running away from bandit gang.
    Now how does that do me any good how many months later when I get to that point in the story. I had to seriously sit and think and remember all that I was wanting to do with that scene. So I went back and redid my outline for me. It's been a huge mental exercise for me as well.
    Typically when I do an outline I do my setting, then my scene. Becuase I'm using multiple settings in an overall setting. Setting world 1 as my main, and setting town tavern, scene bar fight. Just an example. Then I write my scene in a little detail but I didn't leave enough to go off of in my older outline.
    So this time around I did a little fun exercise along side those aspects of my out line I wrote why the scene was important and the reason for it. Example establish motive, conflict, conflict resolution that kind of thing.
    I also listed descriptors for my scenes and idea's I wanted to portray in the setting.

    Bearing all this in mind any advice for building better outlines for story consistency. What do you guys like to do? How do you approach developing a scene and do you keep track of your work and cross it off?
    Your thoughts and opinions and better set ups?
     
  2. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor Community Volunteer

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    I don't outline. I say that as if I have a body of work behind me and, well, no, I don't. But the writing habit that is working for me right now doesn't involve outlining. It involves writing scenes that I want to write, and then trying to glue them together.

    Now that I have a reasonable number glued together, I have black boxes, each of which has an "entry point" and an "exit point".

    So, for example, the entry point could be (if we pretend I'm writing a totally different book) Emily noticing an apparently abandoned empty lot, and the exit point could be the one-year celebration of the anniversary of the founding of the community garden on that lot. Maybe that black box was created because I have a thing that will happen when she sees the lot, and I have a thing that will happen at the anniversary party, and I don't yet know if I care about any details in between. Maybe I will end up filling the black box with two sentences, or maybe it will be ten thousand words of community meetings and fighting for permits.

    And I may have a black box that starts with Emily new and friendless in a new town, and ends with her having a warm and well-established friendship, and again I don't care about the middle.

    Later, I might decide that the well-established friendship is with the lawyer that she went to see about the community garden, so the two black boxes tie together.

    So far that's kind of working. We'll see if it continues.
     
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  3. jannert

    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Here's something I learned while writing my novel, to keep things on track. Decide before you write it (in specific words) what you want each scene or chapter to accomplish.

    Maybe you want to show that a particular character doesn't trust the other. You want the reader to become aware that all isn't well in this relationship, despite the superficial calm. You want to foreshadow a coming event, without being too obvious about it. You want to establish the character's pride in his home. Etc.

    This approach does two things. Not only does it help keep your story on track—even if you're not sure where it's going to eventually end—but it also keeps you from repeating the same 'accomplishment' in following chapters. There needs to be story movement, and this helps to establish it. Once you've accomplished your scene/chapter goal, you move on, and deal with what happens next.
     
    Last edited: Aug 13, 2017
  4. izzybot

    izzybot Human Disaster Contributor

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    I'm usually a planner. I generally end up with vague ideas and specific scenes that I want to do, and an outline is sort of step one in turning that into a story - I ask myself "how can I give weight and context to this scene?" and "what can I do to explore this idea?" and "what can I do to this character?" and eventually work things out. It tends to start as a timeline, and become an outline as I flesh it out. I don't know how useful that part of my messy process would be to you.

    At later stages, I mostly use an outline to keep track of when plot points come in. For example, in my urfan project, I have lines like '[character] learns about [thing]' or '[characters] bond over [thing]'. I just jot down the point of each beat, keep when they need to happen in order, and let future Izzy figure out the meat of it. That's what works for me.

    I think you can do this without an outline, too, but only if you're really good at keeping stuff in your head. I was able to keep track of the continuity for my anti-romance easily because I wrote it in less than two months; the urfan wip's been cookin' for about three years.

    But either way, I think @jannert is right (at for what works for me) - you need to know what you want each scene to do. How does it fit in the context of the scenes on either side of it? And the project as a whole? Early on, outlining really helped me to make tighter plots with less fluff and denser scenes, because it helped me zoom out and see the weaker bits.

    I also did a fun thing where I color-coded bits of my outline to correspond to the amount of tension in each scene, so I could get a really visual idea of how the pacing was working out.
     
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  5. The Dapper Hooligan

    The Dapper Hooligan Senior Member

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    I have a huge tack board for novels. I have post it notes for my characters and plot points and have colour coded string hung up between thumbtacks marking the path of my characters. This way if I have multiple characters in multiple locations, I know who was where for what plot point and reveal and it gives me general idea of where characters should interact and when. Plot points generally meet their post its during brainstorming and after brainstorming is when I generally figure out that order they go in. As I'm writing I'll start a file on each character with basic descriptors and back story up until the story starts and I'll add onto it as I go. I also like having lots of pictures around of places that feel like my settings just so I have reference, I also make floor plans of any houses or other structures that any characters move around in, just so I don't accidentally create a mini Hogwarts for them.
     
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  6. surrealscenes

    surrealscenes Member

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    I mostly write short stories. What happens is I come up with something, fleash it out in my head, get ideas for a few chunks & write those separated by a few lines. I then fill out the story in between the chunks so I am always heading toward the next thing. It also allows me to jump around and fill in different parts as I think of them. In a simple way it looks like-

    horses get stolen

    stop for jerky & coffee & find a clue
    notched horseshoe. blood drops indicating a fight between rustlers

    skirting brambles as head into canyons/ravines
    screeching of birds

    find the cattle, find the rustlers

    confront? surround? wait until dark?

    run into trouble on way home. stampede? natives? pack of wild dogs? flash flood?

    get home
     
  7. jannert

    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    That's a really good idea, especially if you have a complicated plot. Nothing worse than finding out, too late, that you can't make your plot come together, because people aren't where they're supposed to be at the right time or place and the logistics don't work. I remember a writer (not on this forum) who had a character riding a Vespa scooter (solo) from the middle of Iran to Scotland in five days. Umm. Not really possible.
     
    Last edited: Aug 14, 2017 at 9:41 AM
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  8. Xboxlover

    Xboxlover Member

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    Sounds like what I've been working on doing. I'm still just learning to do it more effectively.

    I was thinking about doing something like this as well because I have an overly huge project that is going to need this kind of detail to keep me from missing things. I never thought to color code things though that's a good tip. I was thinking of building a reference manual to keep track of magic rules, histories, character info and back stories, plots and outlines. Right now I have a 5 inch binder sectioned out to deal with many different stages of story development. I had to seriously sort through 17 years of shit. It took me like 5 days to do it and figure out which stories went in what order and which didn't belong in the main story I'm working on. It also allowed me to go through and laugh at myself. Since most of this stuff was written when I was a kid, it was a good idea and what not but written so badly I was embarrassed by it but used it as a chance to learn and critique myself.

    I'm with you on this as well. Mistakes like the scooter can happen during the planning and outline stages if your don't do proper research.
     
  9. TWErvin2

    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    I list the plot (major events) from beginning to end in a spiral notebook. I jot notes about dialogue, specific places, descriptions, or other minor details I want included. I will do some rough character profiles. I use that as a guide. Certainly what's there isn't written in stone, but it helps me keep on track, avoid major revisions, and also avoids writer's block.

    I showed a page example on my blog on August 9. If you're interested you can click on the blog link in my signature and take a look.
     
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  10. Xboxlover

    Xboxlover Member

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    Thank you by the way. I like your blog layout. Hey, a few questions for you. I haven't published anything yet but have artwork and other things I want to show case. I use Deviantart mostly but want to increase my online presence. I've been wanting to start various blogs online but I'm nervous on the upkeep and worried no one will ever read them. (I have a disabled husband and a child. The reason for upkeep worries.) My want/ desire for doing so is to journal my creative process, expression, and potentially have a place to advertise my work whether it be art or writing. Should I be doing this even if I haven't published anything yet? I read online everywhere that you should start marketing yourself as early as possible and building followers help you to do that. I have been interested in a Patreon account for some time, and the reason I haven't made the jump is I'm not sure I have anything to really give my audience as of this time. At least I'm not sure they would even want what I have to offer. Other than posting my work and art for a showcase, journals, and updates, and my fashion designs on the side. Patreon has a capability to crowd fund or support the artist. But I would feel wrong doing something like this if I can't give a decent return to my supporters. I know that this kind of fear is holding me back from selling my artwork and my clothing. I know a lot of diy'er and crafters, artists, and writers alike have great success with Patreon and other blogs, but how do I know if its right for me, or if people will want what I have to offer?
     
  11. TWErvin2

    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    I cannot speak to Patreon. I've seen a lot of vloggers and writers and artists set up accounts. I am not sure as to their success. It's not something I have ever donated to, and generally if it's not something of interest to me, I am more hesitant to get involved. Plus, at least with Patreon, it's really not for me. I am not looking for some readers/fans or whoever to support me so I can spend more time writing and producing completed works. I have a full-time job which I enjoy. Yes, I enjoy writing and most of what being an author entails too...

    As for a blog, the initial time in setting one up would vary depending on your computer savvy or skill, but you don't need tons to get the job accomplished. I use Blogger, but many people prefer Wordpress. Their templates and such are not too difficult and there are many youtube videos that would assist as well. You've done the first two important things, I think. You have begun considering if it is right for you, and if it's going to be worth the time and effort in the long run. Second, you've started to look at blogs, to see what you like (layout and content, etc.)

    No one can tell you for sure if it's going to be of interest for you to post content. It does not take too long to do a blog post, between 5 to 15 minutes for me, usually, unless it's an article or an interview I did. You are right...will anyone stop by your blog...and then return on occasion? I would consider it just one of many tools in the kit for marketing.

    Do you need to have a major online presence? It wouldn't hurt, but won't be a total deal breaker. If you have an active blog, for example, or a Twitter account with a lot of activity and followers...it would benefit you. But followers on a blog or on Twitter or Facebook, etc. do not automatically transfer to readers. You might also consider establishing a mailing list, like through Mail Chimp. Until you get 2000 subscribers, it's free. Maybe have it set up and established, because, you're right. At the moment you don't have tons to offer. But getting a few people on it, and having everything in place could very well make a difference if you get a contract from a publisher for a book or two, or self publish a book or two.

    You might also get a domain name for a website, although you may not need to set anything up. Some people use their Wordpress set up as their website, and have it linked to their domain name, I believe...I haven't done that so maybe someone else can share their knowledge and experience with that. The domain name does cost a little money each year to keep.

    Anyway that is about all I can say from the publishing end. I cannot speak to art or clothing with any firsthand knowledge, but a blog would seem to be be a spot to showcase some art and other things.

    Just my two cents. Hope it helps.
     
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  12. Xboxlover

    Xboxlover Member

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    Thank you for your response and advice. You've been a big help. Thanks for the advice on mailing lists as well. I have a lot of things to consider and thankfully have time to do so. I just finished a chapter tonight so big win! Putting me at a total of 4 chapters now. So I'm starting to feel like I can do this. I just have to now figure out how to stream line my process and utilize my time more effectively.
     
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  13. A.S.Ford

    A.S.Ford Active Member

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    I also make an outline but with an allowance of freedom/play so my planning usually consists of: for every ten thousand words of my novel I will plan 3 to 4 major plot points to occur ... For example: (1) characters attacked on the road by bandits, (2) they find shelter for the night, (3) they have to hide from a murderous gang that are taking refuge in the same place they are (this occurs the night after the one mentioned in the last checkpoint), (4) they escape and realise that they are close to the first major destination in their journey - this just covers one 10,000 word section).

    For the parts in-between these checkpoints, I tend to make notes for myself about any important and particular details that I want or need to happen. For example, between checkpoint (2) and (3) I might put - characters meet family travelling somewhere else who also need shelter for the night, in the morning they go their separate ways, as they continue their journey characters argue, come to where they will take shelter for the night, characters argument returns/increases, murderous gang arrives in same village.

    This seems to work for me, and if my plans end up changing while I am writing then I just adjust my checkpoints and plot details in order to accommodate the new events :)
     
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