1. Marscaleb

    Marscaleb New Member

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    How do I go from gardening to an outline?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Marscaleb, Jun 8, 2019.

    I have learned that my writing style is that of a gardener rather than an architect, or as some may call it I am a "pantser" or a discovery writer. I find out where my story is going as I write it.

    A long time ago I started writing a novel. But after writing a very long story with a lot of boring content (though it did eventually turn into a good story with plot) I felt that I needed to stop just writing whatever came into my head and figure out an actual direction for the story. Well ultimately that led me to just stopping work on the novel. Years went by because I didn't "have a plan" for the book. I was waiting for inspiration to hit and just tell me what needed to happen in the story.

    Now I understand my writing method better; I understand how I need to just write content to be able to create content. So ideally I just need to write more and more to the story, and then once it has finally gone somewhere I look back on it, find what is actually important, and re-write a much shorter story that actually follows a proper structure and whatnot.
    And with this in mind I keep thinking of trying again. But I don't think I can afford the time to write ten dictionaries worth of stories just to find the bits that I want. So maybe I really should write an outline, or in some way or other set up a more distinct goal of what needs to happen in my story.

    What I'm coming to this form is to ask if anyone knows of any good methods a gardener/discovery writer can utilize to break beyond my typical methods so I can add some more structure to my story, to create an outline of some form for me to follow.
     
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  2. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

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    I think waiting for inspiration is probably one of the biggest mistakes a writer can make regardless of the method. For me, it's all about the routine. That's what's helped keep me going and stay on track. Outline or no outline it's maintaining a writing routine that has gotten me anywhere. And I don't write every day. I allow myself breaks as needed. But discipline is such a big part of writing. I'm a pantser. Coming from a short story background, I thought I might need some sort of outline, but nothing I planned or tried to plan ended up making it onto the page so much. Outlines work for a lot of people. They are easy enough to create. And they range from a series of simple words or sentence fragments to quite detailed and planned out scenes. Outlines have never worked for me. I find them hard to follow while I'm trying to follow my writer instincts and gut at the same time. But there is no hurt in trying. You say years went by because you didn't have a plan, but during that time what stopped you from coming up with a plan? I'm not sure what sort of direction you are looking for, but what I have tried is a chapter-by-chapter plan and keeping it pretty simple and open. Again, outlining did not work for me. Not at all. But it doesn't hurt to try. It's just an outline isn't likely to make you more disciplined to write, in my opinion. But maybe it will work for you.
     
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  3. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    Are you sure that an outline is the solution? I’m achieving structure by writing all over the story context (same characters, limited number of places, but the scenes are what I please) and then rearranging the scenes and making changes to fix conflicts and strengthen connections.

    Now, I do put outline-like summaries on the scenes, like:

    - Jane and John meet
    - Jane refuses to do something (?) John wants
    - John blackmails Jane about that crime thing
    - The scene where the crime thing happens

    and Scrivener supports easily moving scenes into different orders. This produces issues—for example, I might very well find that John is blackmailing Jane before the crime thing happens. But that just means I have to fix something. It’s working moderately well so far.
     
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  4. Marscaleb

    Marscaleb New Member

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    I appreciate that advice.
    You both are suggesting that I may not need an outline. Well, perhaps not, perhaps an outline isn't what I need per se. But I do still feel that I need some sort of structure, perhaps, some sort of destination. I have events but I don't understand what the final conflict my story is leading to. I've built up things that look like I know where I'm going, but I don't, and I feel/worry that if I continue as I have before that I'm just going to build more tangents and incomplete arcs, and wind up with some pile of literature spaghetti that never really comes to an end.

    Maybe it could work out; maybe I would just need to grow a lot more story before I figure out what it is that I want. But honestly, if that's my best plan of attack I don't think I'm going to get back to writing; I have a lot of other things I could do instead, and I'm going to favor those if I feel my thirty-volume epic novel series is never going to get finished.

    So perhaps not a formal outline, but I feel I need to shift from a purely pantsing writing stile into something with some degree of more structure. So, what are some good tools and tips for a gardener/pantser to add some more structure and make their writing a little more architect/plotter?
     
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  5. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

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    I'm not suggesting you shouldn't do an outline. I was just saying what has and hasn't worked for me. The thing is all those things you don't know about your story, you're going to have to figure out to create an outline. And maybe this process will work for you. I just wouldn't expect it to fix everything. It didn't really fix anything or help me at all the few times I've tried an outline. But I have tried that approach, and there is nothing wrong with trying.

    The way I've learned structure is just by reading a lot. I really don't think there is a better or easier way. You read enough and things like structure just kind of click and make sense. Again, this is my experience. But I do believe the more you read the easier things like structure fall into place.
     
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  6. marshipan

    marshipan Senior Member

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    I like going into my story with the idea that there are four acts, a lot of people do three acts as well. At the end of each act a shift occurs that changes or moves the story in some way. The first act is about setting up the story. The final scene in Act One is a big event that alters the course of things. Your characters are now set down a path they can't walk away from.

    Are you writing genre fiction? It might help you to look up structure guidelines for your genre to get a clearer idea what each of these events should accomplish. Anyway, if you can decide on these big moments then they can help you move the story in a specific direction.

    You break up the story and then have goals to work towards in each section.
     
  7. Lifeline

    Lifeline Going South. Supporter Contributor

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    Take a simple text editor. Summarize the scenes you have in your head with a sentence each. Put them into the txt document. Shift them around until the evolution makes sense. Do this each time you get the idea for another scene and put them into the appropriate place. Immediately. Eventually you'll have a storyline, even if it's not formally a 3/4/99-act. You don't need a numbered approach if you can go with your gut—and as a gardener, your gut knows what's right.

    This approach worked for me quite well, fellow gardener that I am. A formal approach doesn't work for me, but an informal one. Don't plan anything beside the key-scenes you put into the text document. Resist the approach to think about how to go from one to another. Your gut will fill in the details.

    And the most important part: Think about your story. Read and research. Care about your story, so much that you don't get discouraged if things don't immediately lead up to some grand scheme. I don't want to appear unkind, but if you already are thinking about giving up before you start, then it might be better to go and do some of those other things you talk about. Writing is hard. It's a lot of work, and you might write 'The End' only to find you need to go back to the start and begin again, because you've grown as a writer and know you can do a better job. If you're not committed to your goal, you might as well give up before giving yourself heartache with something unfinished.
     
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  8. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    See, on the one hand I can say, and did say, "Add taglines to your scenes! Rearrange them! Fix the contradictions and connections! It worked for me!"

    What I'm forgetting is that I was surprised and relieved that it worked. :) I'm not done, but I have a coherent plotline and I'm in the position of editing that plotline and fixing the holes and choosing which of the possible endings I want to use.

    Are you really saying that you're planning a thirty-volume epic novel series, or was that sarcasm? I'm hoping it was sarcasm.
     
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  9. big soft moose

    big soft moose The Moderating Moose Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    I've now written 15 novels (7 published 8 in various stages of process) by pure pantsing without an outline. I found that as a discovery writer outlining was a waste of my time as i never stuck to it anyway

    What i tend to do is just write the story , then on the first self edit i look for holes and inconsistencies.
     
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  10. The Dapper Hooligan

    The Dapper Hooligan (V) ( ;,,;) (v) Contributor

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    I used to not outline and found that it really didn't work for me. Then I would have problems plotting because I would always get stuck on something, because I would plot from start to finish, like a chump. Finally I learned to start big, like how I want the story to start and finish, and refine from there.
     
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  11. Lifeline

    Lifeline Going South. Supporter Contributor

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    Huh, are you saying that this is what I do? Cause it sure reads like that :) I must say, to see that I'm not alone in that approach and that it works for you, is rather encouraging.
     
  12. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    It sounds like it, yep. Now, this is my first novel, so I can’t yet claim it’s a repeatable thing, but I’m pleased with it on this one.

    Oddly, the main structure of my next idea is all plotted—I didn’t assign my head to do that, but it did it. I hope I can write it. It will be weird to know where I’m going.
     
  13. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

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    For my novel I created a really weird sort of outline. I still don't know where my story is going really, but I created a list of objects that each chapter would revolve around somewhat. Maybe not revolve around, but these objects would be included and important to each chapter. Is that an outline of sorts? I've sort of abandoned my original list, but before each new chapter I choose an object that will be important in this chapter. Things like coffee table or washing machine. It's sort of weird, but it's actually working for the story I'm telling. Novels are hard. It takes so much time and dedication and discipline. And progression seems slow. Writing 1k words is nothing really when you're taking on a project of this scope. And it really all comes down to the writing no matter how you get there. But the best outline means nothing if it doesn't lead to actually writing the story. Just wondering why you abandoned your novel for years. You could have done an outline during those years you took off. Hopefully, you were writing other things. I'll say from experience that time off does make us a little rusty. I'm in no rush to finish my novel because I do sell short stories and essays on a regular basis so they tend to be my priority. But the novel is still in the works. I would like to have it finished in the next few months. I think it's time. But having an outline or not having an outline shouldn't stop us from writing. It's easy enough to try out different methods. It's stopping or taking long breaks for years that's not doing you any favors. Life happens and I get that, but if you just gave up and are deciding to pick it back up, I just wouldn't expect any method to come easy. If you want to write the story, you will. But you have to want to write it, and if you truly want it, you'll figure out a way to do it.
     
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  14. Lifeline

    Lifeline Going South. Supporter Contributor

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    Sounds like it. For my 'outline', I use the taglines that designate a key event and pants between keys. There might be a whole lot of other stuff going on in that scene, but the key-tagline is what propels the story forward.
     
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  15. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

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    That's probably a really good approach for the OP to try. I would suggest seeing how this works before pouring a ton of time into trying to create any sort of detailed outline.
     
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  16. Marscaleb

    Marscaleb New Member

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    The biggest reason that I can recall was that I felt like I needed to stop writing this pointless stream of scenes and actually figure out where my story was going. This was before I ever understood that there was this scale of writing as gardeners and architects, so I didn't understand how what I was going was going to kill my story worse than a lack of focus.
    I wound up starting a couple more writing projects since then, and bounced around to a couple different creative ideas. I working on my drawing skill, I tried making YouTube videos for a short while, started a webcomic, but for most of the past few years I've been trying to develop a video game. From time to time I would swing back to my novel and write a little more, but it's been a while since I gave it the full attention it deserves.
    My actual writing skills probably have gotten rusty, but I have at least been sharpening my storytelling.

    More of suggesting that's what I would have written by the time I finish my first draft, since I'm just going forward without any direction nor an end in mind.


    No, you're completely right about that. I read a lot of webcomics, and those things drop like flies all the time, and what you said was the same advice I'd give to people starting one of those.

    And if I'm going to be completely honest here, I never really wanted to be a writer anyway.
    I wanted to be... A LUMBERJACK!
    Leaping from tree to tree as they float down the mighty rivers of British Columbia! With my best girl by my side, and we'd sing! Sing, sing!
     
  17. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

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    @Marscaleb -- If you don't really want to be a writer, I don't think it's going to make too much difference if you have an outline or not. People don't become writers by accident. Even writing as a hobby takes a lot of work. It's not easy and progress is slow. But you did join a writing forum so I'm not so sure I'm buying it that you don't want to be a writer or write. Maybe play around with some short stories. I won't say they're easier to write, but they do take less time. You should be able to bang out a draft of one of those in a week or two. Then do another one. And another one. See how that goes for you. Try writing some with an outline and without one. Try out first person and third person. Maybe it will help you find your footing before taking on a larger work. They don't even have to be good. No one is good when they first start out. But it will get you writing if any part of you does in fact want to write.
     
    Last edited: Jun 10, 2019
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  18. Marscaleb

    Marscaleb New Member

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    What kind of internet are we living in where people can't pick up on a Monty Python reference?
     
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  19. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    I got the Monty Python reference, and got a flash of Connie Booth's face, but I thought you were serious about not-sure-you-want-to-be-a-writer.
     
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  20. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

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    Same.
     
  21. cosmic lights

    cosmic lights Senior Member

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    Well, a friend of mine really lacked structure and pacing in her novels and her endings were always flat (something that seems to be common in "gardeners") Great opening, great ideas but flat endings. You can easily put your structure in afterwards. "Get it written, then get it right" sort of thing.
    Some people just have natural instinct for structure and pacing and others don't. So, if putting in the structure after doesn't work for you take a long at the three act structure. It's been used to help outline books, movies and plays for thousands of years and gone unchanged. It works. Try fitting your story into that structure as you go along. Or wait until the book is completed and then try.

    My friend sorted her problem out by learning the three acts and keeping them in mind. Not saying you have to force your story into an formula, but some things do need to be there to keep an audience riveted.
    hope this helped
     
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  22. LoaDyron

    LoaDyron Senior Member

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    Hello friend. :superhello:

    I am a gardener myself in which comes to write. I discovered that first I write the story as a first draft, all my ideas to the blank paper. Most of the stuff will not make any sense, but that's why you as a gardener are doing, exposing all the inspirations you want to discover and see if it works. Then when your story or a chapter is done, you start to fix the mistakes you found.

    Now if you want to pass through being an architect writer, I will advise you first to write the concept of your story to help you see what is irrelevant or not. Then after you figured out your idea, see if anything can start with a plot; or if you will use it as a plot. And here use everything you have, characters, motivations, villans, secondary characters, etc. Remember that all you have to do is write basic ideas before you begin to write anything.

    I hope this helps. Keep on good work and have fun.
     
    Last edited: Aug 13, 2019
  23. jannert

    jannert Who? Whooo? Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I don't know if you guys already do this, but speaking as a pantser (to some extent) I like to ensure that I know where a scene is going before I write it. I don't necessarily know what the whole story will be like, but when I sit down to write a scene, I make sure I know what that scene is supposed to do.

    I pantsed my novel, for the most part. It wasn't till I was about 2/3 of the way through the first draft of the novel that I knew pretty much where it was going and why. But even then, I had scenes firmly fixed in my head. (A few of which got removed during the edits.) But I had a purpose in mind for each scene. I knew who the POV character was, what the tone would be, and what I wanted the reader to 'get' from the scene. It was kind of like a mini story.

    The more I wrote, the more fixed the overall story became.

    My next novel (which contains some of the same characters and locations as the first one) is a bit more planned. (I've written three chapters and am starting a fourth.) I do know where it's going, and the backstory is now set. So it will be interesting to see how that works for me.
     
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  24. cosmic lights

    cosmic lights Senior Member

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    I needed to stop just writing whatever came into my head and figure out an actual direction for the story.
    I hear that!

    I would use a very basic method, which is the three Act structure and many of them come with examples from well-known stories. You can be as detailed as you like, but it ensures your story has direction and hit important points and keeps up a pace.

    Example:
    1) Set up/beginning/introduction
    A girl lives on a working farm in Texas, she hates the boring, glamorous life. Feels she meant for more but lacks the confidence to go looking because her family tell her this is the right life for her.
    2) Inciting Incident
    A carnival comes to town and she meets for fortuneteller and decides to run away based on what he tells her to discover the destiny.

    And you just keep going like that following the outline. You can put more detail in if you like or keep it simple. That way you're providing a direction for yourself but not planning it to death and killing your passion and imagination.
     
  25. Foxxx

    Foxxx The Debonair Contributor

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    I think you can try to combine elements of an outline to your gardening.

    I conceptualize pure gardening as not even knowing what the Hell you're going to grow, where you're going to grow it, how you're going to grow it. Sometimes your beanstalks are dead in the soil. Sometimes you get that one Jack kept going on about.

    So in terms of an outline, start with deciding where and when you're going to grow it. Metaphorically speaking. You know, like a coloring book, it doesn't tell you what colors to use, or in what order. But it does tell you where to color, and what the resulting picture will be.

    In English: Leave yourself freedom to tackle scenes how you want. But have it mapped out by knowing what those scenes generally are, who's in them, and the one thing you want them to accomplish (and consequently how each one feeds into the next).
     
    Last edited: Aug 14, 2019

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