1. Fernando.C

    Fernando.C Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 26, 2015
    Messages:
    619
    Likes Received:
    482
    Location:
    Floating in the Cosmere.

    How To Outline Without Outlining?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Fernando.C, Jul 28, 2017.

    I have a problem guys. I've been working on my current WIP for something around 7 years now, and one of the big reason that it has dragged out this long - aside from my compulsive procrastination - is that I'm writing without any structure.

    Allow me to elaborate; I'm a discovery writer which means I don't outline my books, I've tried outlining before and it just never works for me. So the way I usually write is that I have this vague idea of the plot of my story and the direction it is to take in my head and then I just sit down and write, figuring out the details as I go long. This method seems to suit me better overall but I'm having a lot of issues applying it to my WIP novel.

    Because of this lack of structure, too often I end up feeling lost, not knowing what I should write and what direction a specific chapter needs to take. I know how the book begins and how it ends but the middle is really murky, there are a couple of big plot points that I know I need to hit but aside from those there's a sense of aimlessness when it comes to the writing of the middle section of the novel.

    Another issue is that since I figure things out as I write, I usually don't find out a lot of the flaws in the story and plot holes and problems until I actually get to them which means a whole lot of rewriting (I know rewriting and revision is inevitable for a writer but I've rewritten the the first few chapters of my novel so many times it's insane).

    What I'm trying to say here is that I need to add more structure to my writing and plotting, but traditional outlining doesn't work for me. So I'm asking you the lovely fellow residents of WF to help me figure out a way to outline my book without actually outlining it in the conventional sense, a middle ground between discovery writing and outlining. I've tried different things but so far haven't been successful and I'm kind of desperate, this problem is really hampering my writing, I haven't made any real progress in my WIP for a while now and this is a major reason why.

    Any and all help is appreciated :)
     
  2. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin The game sour like a pickle be.... Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 8, 2017
    Messages:
    6,493
    Likes Received:
    12,790
    Location:
    Rhode Island
    Yep, yep... I've beat my head against that wall more times than I can count. I don't outline or plan either at first either. That usually comes afterwords.

    Questions:

    1. Do you have a first draft completed yet, and if so, is the cut coherent? Like would it make sense (regardless of quality) from beginning to end or are there holes/things-to-be-added?

    2. Do you know what's wrong with it yet, or are you still in the process of evaluating what works and what doesn't? Some problems are easier to fix than others.
     
    Last edited: Jul 28, 2017
    Cave Troll and Fernando.C like this.
  3. Seven Crowns

    Seven Crowns Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Apr 18, 2017
    Messages:
    774
    Likes Received:
    1,502
    There are different kinds of outlines. They don't have to detail every point. So try a looser one. I'd do something like the following . . .

    You know the beginning and end of your story, and you know in general what its purpose is. Take just that and apply it to your scenes. Now that means you'll have to have a list of scenes, but I'm betting you can do that. Just picture sitting down and watching your novel unfold on a movie screen. Jot down what's happening every 5 minutes in the cinema. Truthfully, this is probably the hardest step.

    Take your list of scenes and determine these three things for each:
    • how does it start?
    • what's its purpose?
    • how does it end?
    That's all. All of the discovery will still be there. If an early scene discovery changes your plans, then you adjust the scene-outline to accommodate it. So the process is still organic (mostly . . .), but everything is already connected because you know purpose and transition. There won't be a murky middle, and you'll always know what you need to do next.
     
    Rosacrvx, Simpson17866 and Fernando.C like this.
  4. Fernando.C

    Fernando.C Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 26, 2015
    Messages:
    619
    Likes Received:
    482
    Location:
    Floating in the Cosmere.
    Well it's good to see I'm not alone in this issue :)

    1. No I don't have a first draft completed yet. The development process for this novel has been a bit chaotic to say the least. I do have an earlier version of the novel sittng in my PC, it's a little over a 100 pages long and it's unfinished. I've changed things up so much since then that that version is mostly irrevelent now.
    Since then I've rewritten the first few chapters several times. What happens is that I write a few chapters then I come up with new ideas and end up changing certain aspects of the plot which then means I need to go back and change those chapters to reflect the changes and so on. It's not a healthy way to write, I know.

    At the moment I'm 5 chapters into the latest version of the novel. And this time I have a much better grasp of where the novel is supposed to go and I've told myself that this time around I'm not going back amd rewriting any chapters until I'm done with this draft.

    2. I'd say I'm still evaluating what's working and what's not.

    Just so you know this novel is supposed to be the first in a five book series, so when it comes to the plot I have to have the overall narrative of the series in mind as well as the plot of the first book
     
    Last edited: Jul 29, 2017
    Lifeline likes this.
  5. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin The game sour like a pickle be.... Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 8, 2017
    Messages:
    6,493
    Likes Received:
    12,790
    Location:
    Rhode Island
    Well, not to state the obvious here, but maybe you should worry about getting the first book done before you start sweating the plot points for book 5. I mean, if you're 6 years deep into the first few chapters of book 1 and still struggling with structure, how do you know if any of it is viable yet?
     
    Rosacrvx, Cave Troll and Fernando.C like this.
  6. Fernando.C

    Fernando.C Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 26, 2015
    Messages:
    619
    Likes Received:
    482
    Location:
    Floating in the Cosmere.
    I am focused on book 1 right now, the goal is to finish that for now. It's just that the story I wanna tell happens to be five books long.
     
  7. Thundair

    Thundair Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 4, 2017
    Messages:
    1,125
    Likes Received:
    934
    Location:
    San Diego
    I may get some comment for this, but I like using a treatment. I'm 55000 words into my wip, but I started with a 2000 word treatment.
    You will go off course, but if you use it for a guide it makes it easier, at least for me to create a back story.


    http://penandthepad.com/write-novel-treatment-6941571.html
     
    Simpson17866 and Fernando.C like this.
  8. Fernando.C

    Fernando.C Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 26, 2015
    Messages:
    619
    Likes Received:
    482
    Location:
    Floating in the Cosmere.
    Thanks Seven Crowns this actually does help a lot.
     
    Seven Crowns likes this.
  9. OJB

    OJB A Mean Old Man Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 19, 2016
    Messages:
    1,338
    Likes Received:
    1,236
    Location:
    Chicago, IL.
    Fernando,

    I've not read any of the other replies, but here is my response.

    A chapter needs to tell of a change, be it negative or positive.

    I'll use Thomas Harris's Red Dragon Chapter 1 as an example: Chapter 1 starts with Jack Crawford wanting Will Graham to join his FBI team -Will is unsure.- the Chapter ends with Will Graham agreeing to join (Change: Doesn't have Will Graham on team => Will Graham being on team.)

    Hope my advice helps you.

    -OJB
     
  10. Walking Dog

    Walking Dog Active Member

    Joined:
    May 15, 2017
    Messages:
    151
    Likes Received:
    105
    Location:
    Texas
    I'm an outliner. Even my short stories are outlined. My outline bullets are scenes. I think of my story like a movie playing-out. I write a single, short sentence for each scene I want in my story. As I think of new scenes, I rewrite the outline to include the new scene. Some people use index cards for the ease of adding scenes. An outline will allow you to see how the story idea is progressing. You can add, delete, or combine scenes as you go. An example of how I outline is below. As I think of new scenes to add to the story, I add them. I also begin to add dialog important to the story. The outline eventually stretches into pages. My first draft is each scene expounded:

    Gilbert wants to sail around the World.
    Gilbert purchases DIY plans.
    Gilbert working on his trimaran.
    Family and friends amused.
    Launch Day.
    Shakedown cruise.
    Preparation for World cruise.
    Warning of pirates at marina.
    Out to sea, first stop Bermuda.
    Attempt to use sextant.
    Encounters rat trapped on debris, rescues, names him Pirate.
    Failure with sextant; misses Bermuda; decides to aim for England instead.
    ...
    Fishing in cove along African coast.
    Catches a net full of menhaden for bait.
    A dolphin appears, drops gold doubloon into boat.
    Gilbert gives the dolphin a fish; dolphin drops another doubloon.
    Gilbert waving another fish, a bucket full of doubloons.
    Gilbert to Pirate, "Looks like we bled him dry. Either that or he died of a busted gut."
     
    Last edited: Jul 29, 2017
    Fernando.C likes this.
  11. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 8, 2015
    Messages:
    17,383
    Likes Received:
    26,224
    Location:
    Where cushions are comfy, and straps hold firm.
    Panstering is hard, especially in the middle.
    Building a skeleton is easy. Putting the muscle,
    tendons, sinew, and nerves on is and can be
    bloody hard.
    The ending is just adding the skin, and final
    features that define the body as whole.

    Just stick with the spot your currently at, and
    worry about the rest as it comes later.
    :supersmile:Good Luck. :superidea:
     
    Fernando.C likes this.
  12. Simpson17866

    Simpson17866 Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 23, 2013
    Messages:
    3,414
    Likes Received:
    2,920
    @Fernando.C Two steps:

    1) Think of it as "discovery outlining" :) That beautiful feeling you get when you start your first draft not knowing what's going to happen, then learning more about what happens as you write more? Outlining works the same way if you let it.
    2) Remember that the outline is the 0th draft of the novel, and you are no more beholden to make the 1st draft look exactly like the 0th draft than you are beholden to make the 2nd draft exactly the same as the 1st ;)

    EDIT: More specifically, I've found that one thing that works for me is to just make a numbered list:
    1. A few sentences about what happens in Chapter 1
    2. A few sentences about what happens in Chapter 2
    3. A few sentences about what happens in Chapter 3
    4. A few sentences about what happens in Chapter 4
    5. ...

    Ultimately: everything for me boils down to brute force. No matter how long I've had an idea in my head, I'm always looking for new ways to tinker with it, to see what would be different if I change just one of the component and none others, how would that change the story as a whole?

    The most important rule of the "brute force" approach is analysis: figuring out in general what kind of story I want to write so that I can evaluate my many specific ideas as to whether they meet what I want to write in general.

    What kind of story do you want to write?
     
    Last edited: Jul 29, 2017
    Fernando.C likes this.
  13. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 8, 2015
    Messages:
    17,383
    Likes Received:
    26,224
    Location:
    Where cushions are comfy, and straps hold firm.
    @Simpson17866

    First of all what is a '0th' draft? (Zeroth, sounds funny and
    have never heard of it. Hey you taught me something new) :D

    Wouldn't an outline be like .5 draft, or 1/16, or something?
    Reason I ask is because zero draft would be a blank
    page, as zero hold no value and you cant have a negative
    draft.
     
  14. Lifeline

    Lifeline North of South. Contributor

    Joined:
    Oct 12, 2015
    Messages:
    3,014
    Likes Received:
    4,177
    Location:
    On the Road.
    I write down things later in the storyline on little pieces of paper and put them in a dedicated box (which goes everywhere with me). Sometimes I look through them to remind myself of important pieces. It helps me keep on track, even while it's not an outline per se—all of those pieces of paper are just randomly ordered, as they occurred to me or get thrown around. Maybe one day I'll sit down and jot them down in some orderly fashion :rolleyes:
     
    Fernando.C likes this.
  15. Simpson17866

    Simpson17866 Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 23, 2013
    Messages:
    3,414
    Likes Received:
    2,920
    Don't Explain The Joke, explaining a joke is like dissecting a frog! Sure, you understand it better, but it dies in the process!

    Just say that it's the draft before the first draft and be done with it! :D

    ... "It" obviously being the analogy and not the book that the outline is for.
     
    Fernando.C and Cave Troll like this.
  16. Fernando.C

    Fernando.C Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 26, 2015
    Messages:
    619
    Likes Received:
    482
    Location:
    Floating in the Cosmere.
    Thanks OJB. Chapter this is an interesting and helpful point, I'm definitely gonna keep it in mind.

    'Discovery outlining', I like that. Your post is thought-provoking to me, and I really like the idea of looking at the outline as draft zero.

    Your method is both chaotic and organized at the same time Lifeline, it might actually suit me :) .
     
    Simpson17866 and Lifeline like this.
  17. Lifeline

    Lifeline North of South. Contributor

    Joined:
    Oct 12, 2015
    Messages:
    3,014
    Likes Received:
    4,177
    Location:
    On the Road.
    What I also found is this (attached). I didn't make a graph for my specific story, but mentally assigning key scenes to key points on the slope helps my backbrain make connections between them. It also reminds me that the tension should be rising, the stakes should get higher, the potential fall should be deeper at every chapter.
     

    Attached Files:

    Simpson17866 and Fernando.C like this.
  18. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin The game sour like a pickle be.... Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 8, 2017
    Messages:
    6,493
    Likes Received:
    12,790
    Location:
    Rhode Island
    I hear you. This is why I don't write series. Getting a single book done is hard enough without the added narrative drag of prospective followups. Until that first book is in the can you got nothing, and I almost always need to fire every bullet I can find just to make the first one interesting.
     
    Fernando.C likes this.
  19. Simpson17866

    Simpson17866 Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 23, 2013
    Messages:
    3,414
    Likes Received:
    2,920
    True to a point, but there's always the possibility of a story where the tension generally goes up while locally zig-zagging up and down to give the reader a chance to breathe in between the moments of highest tension ;)

    I'm actually exactly the opposite :D

    I'm OK with my short stories being more self-contained, but when I'm writing something novel-length, I need to know that it's the story is going to keep going even after the first installment. I have a general outline for the series as a whole, a much more specific outline for just the first book, and I need to write the first book in much the same way that I would write the first chapter in the book: good enough on its own, but better as the first part of something larger.
     
    Fernando.C likes this.
  20. Fernando.C

    Fernando.C Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 26, 2015
    Messages:
    619
    Likes Received:
    482
    Location:
    Floating in the Cosmere.
    Yeah writing in a series is not easy especially for a newbie writer like me but I don't regret it. I like having a big world to play in and I'm a huge fan of high fantasy books and series with their huge worlds and massive scales so this is the sort of thing I love. I love doing the world building and creating the mythology for my world and all this stuff. But yeah I didn't exactly made things easy for myself by jumping head first into a series as my first venture into writing.
     
  21. Fernando.C

    Fernando.C Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 26, 2015
    Messages:
    619
    Likes Received:
    482
    Location:
    Floating in the Cosmere.
    That's exactly how I'm approaching Book 1 in my series.
     
    Simpson17866 likes this.
  22. XOXOwriterXOXO

    XOXOwriterXOXO New Member

    Joined:
    Jul 29, 2017
    Messages:
    3
    Likes Received:
    2
    I'm looking at a lot of these comments and there's a few that seem to be trying to get you to outline your story when you said that's what you DIDN'T want to do. I myself am exactly like you - I can't plan and if I try, I get sick of the idea and throw it to one side when I know that it could be a great story if I just put my mind to it. Usually, what I do is go outside into my garden where I can only just get enough WiFi to research a few things and listen to music but not procrastinate for hours on end. Then, I stay there for about four or five hours and end up with half the first draft done.

    If I ever get stuck, I get up and do something that doesn't have to do with technology. If you have a pet dog, you could go for a walk with them. My best ideas come when I'm in the woods with my pet Pippi and I just talk and talk and talk to her like a crazy person (honestly, I 'reply' to her so much, you would think I was actually talking to someone if you overheard me :-D). If you don't have a dog, you could just go for a walk by yourself. Think things through, talk OUT LOUD to yourself, because out loud you start to realise what sounds likely and what sounds UNlikely.

    I don't know any good ways of planning an outline without actually outlining that have caught my own attention yet. Usually, if I'm really feeling up to trying it, I'll get an A4 sheet of paper and a box of fineliners and I'll make a really pretty MindMap in short hand, with branches shooting off of it and doodles on the side. I can cram a whole book onto one page without any problems and it really forces me to filter things down. If you don't like MindMaps, try a timeline with the main points - e.g. "Character A and Character B meet in a coffee shop" - and don't put in too much detail. Work your way through the book that way. I don't filter it into chapters. I always find I write more or less than expected when I do that. :)

    Hope this helped,
    XOXOwriterXOXO
     
    Simpson17866 and Fernando.C like this.
  23. Fernando.C

    Fernando.C Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 26, 2015
    Messages:
    619
    Likes Received:
    482
    Location:
    Floating in the Cosmere.
    Ha you understand me then :D . I like the MindMap idea, I actually didn't know much about MindMaps but just did a quick google search and I like the concept. Don't know if it would work for me but it's worth a try. I mean it's visually stimulating and kinda nonlinear with should work great with my chaotic mind. We'll see. Thanks.

    Sidenote: I don't have a dog or any other pets for that matter, would love to get one at some point though, it's just not possible now. I'm more of a cat person so I might get a cat at some point but I love dogs too. :p

    ETA : Welcome to the forum btw, I just noticed you're a new member.
     
    Simpson17866 likes this.
  24. Simpson17866

    Simpson17866 Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 23, 2013
    Messages:
    3,414
    Likes Received:
    2,920
    Both very good forms of outlining ;)
     
  25. XOXOwriterXOXO

    XOXOwriterXOXO New Member

    Joined:
    Jul 29, 2017
    Messages:
    3
    Likes Received:
    2
    Thanks :)
     

Share This Page

  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.
    Dismiss Notice