1. Seren

    Seren Writeaholic

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    Is This a Stupid Idea?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Seren, Aug 24, 2017.

    I just had a brainwave.

    Or maybe a brain crash, if it turns out that this is a really stupid idea.

    While writing up a detailed (chapter by chapter) plan for the story I want to work on next, I suddenly thought, "Hey, what if my beta readers read this plan for me? They might be able to point out plot holes before I actually start writing the real thing and waste a lot of words."

    However, I've also heard people say that you shouldn't share too much about your story until you've finished the first draft, because if you don't get the reaction you want it can really put you off and burst your little bubble of inspiration. And then you don't finish writing it.

    So, if my beta readers are willing, do I give the plan to them? Or do I just write the actual novel and then give the novel to them, as one normally would?
     
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  2. Spencer1990

    Spencer1990 Contributor Contributor

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    I can see the positive and negative of this.

    The biggest problem I see is that the detailed plan will not full contextualize your ideas. You will still have a lot in your head that can't make it into an outline, so there will be a massive disconnect between how you view the story (the creator) and how they view the story (with only an outline). This is because a lot of successful work comes down to execution rather than ideas. Two people can have a similar idea. If one is executed effectively, it will get a much better response than one that is executed poorly. With just an outline, potential readers are missing, arguably, the most important part of writing: execution.
     
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  3. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin Funky like your grandpa's drawers.... Staff Contributor

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    The execution would be the only part I'd be interested in. Anyone can make an outline or string plot points together but few people can write compelling sentences.
     
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  4. Seren

    Seren Writeaholic

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    I see. I didn't really think about that. And I do sometimes deviate from my plans, so I might spontaneously make a plot hole for myself even if I'd tried my hardest to avoid them anyway.
     
  5. Spencer1990

    Spencer1990 Contributor Contributor

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    There's also the issue of gaps. Outlines are inherently gap-riddled. It's your job as the writer to fill in those gaps. If you hand someone else an outline, even if it's detailed, then that person winds up filling in those gaps in whatever way their imagination allows. So the person's perception of the story will be wildly different from what you intended. At this point, what good is it doing you to have shown the outline to someone? You'd be getting comments based on how their imagination perceives the story, rather than the story you intend to write.

    If that makes sense.
     
  6. Clementine_Danger

    Clementine_Danger Active Member

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    I'm imagining receiving this as a beta reader, and I have to admit I'm struggling to find a way to be helpful in this scenario. If the main question about the outline is "do you think this will work as a novel?" my answer is invariably going to be "Dunno, depends on how it's done."

    Although it can bypass the heartache of discovering that your beautiful story has been done to death by every hack author since the sixties. Or it's just lousy with tropes. I hate having to throw away decent stuff just because someone points out it's been done to the point of over-saturation. (We call that "Simpsons did it" in my house.)

    Other than that though, I can't really come up with a scenario that would make it worth doing. Still, if you try this, let us know! I'd be interested to know how it went.
     
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  7. izzybot

    izzybot (unspecified) Contributor

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    I asked someone to read a pretty detailed outline for me once. It was mostly to see if the bare bones of the story made sense, if the sequence of events was logical, and if she could spot any plot holes. It worked out fine - she didn't catch anything weird - but I can't say it really helped, either. I've tinkered with the story a lot more since then, so there may be new issues, but at the same time I wouldn't want her to beta read the finished product now because she wouldn't be able to come into it cold, so I think I hurt myself in the long run for nothing.
     
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  8. Mckk

    Mckk Member Supporter Contributor

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    I'd ask about specific plot points you may have doubts about, but I wouldn't bother with giving them the detailed plan. Honestly, once you start writing, so much will change that the detailed plan is probably not worth a lot. Like, the actual thing and your plan might not resemble each other at all. Also, personally, once someone has read something I've written, I feel an obligation to keep what has been written even if it would be better to delete or change it. Somehow I feel like I'd disappoint the person who's already put in the effort to read, or I have wasted their time, or I am in doubt whether the change would make it better since the reader has already given me positive feedback.

    However, I do enjoy having an alpha reader. That isn't quite the same as showing your readers a detailed plan. Right now I'm letting someone read my WIP as I'm writing it, and she's pointed out things she felt were missing or doesn't make sense and I've been able to immediately go back and put in those changes. It's also encouraging to see somebody is enjoying your book :D the positive feedback helps keep me going. The fact that someone is waiting for the next chapter helps keep me going. The fact that I have someone who knows the story almost as well as I do means I have someone I can bounce ideas with, check ideas if they make sense before I write it in etc. I absolutely love having an alpha reader. It makes the process a heck of a lot less lonely. Obviously this alpha reader cannot come into the finished draft "cold" by the end, but I don't feel that that would be wasted resource. I would nonetheless still ask this alpha reader to reread the whole thing from the beginning once it's finished, esp since she will know how it all pans out etc and would be more likely to be able to spot structure or pacing issues, even if she cannot provide feedback on whether certain twists have worked (since she will be aware of those twists coming up). I think the value is in the encouragement you gain from it, as well as the value of just having someone else who intimately knows your book and what you're trying to do with it!
     
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  9. Fernando.C

    Fernando.C Contributor Contributor

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    Personally I wouldn't do this. Outlines, no matter how detailed are just the bare-bones version of the story. It's in the execution that the story actually takes shape, and you usually discover most of the plot holes in the process of writing it. So I really don't see much point in showing your outline to people before they actually read the story.

    You can't really judge a story based on outline alone, it's not at all a good indication of the end product. So whatever reaction you get to your outline, wouldn't mean much in terms of the actual story. It's like if you decide to cook a new dish, but before actually cooking it you gather all the ingredients, put them on the table along with the cooking instructions and have your friends tell you if the dish is tasty based on that. At best they might be able to venture a guess as to how the dish might turn out but they can't really tell you if it actually tastes good without tasting it, can they?
     
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