Monday, December 21, 2009

An Outline Begins

So, I'm finally starting to look at my NaNo novel again. I'd been tinkering with it a little, but the ending just wasn't coming to me. After listening to all of your very helpful advice, I decided to do a reread.

I've only done a few chapters so far. And I know the holiday craziness is going to cause a lot of interruptions in the process, but... I like the way it's going!!

I'm keeping a very short outline of the novel as I write. It's in a separate file. I number the chapters and add a one-line description of the action. I also include the pov because it alternates between the male mc and female mc.

I think I've got a handle on the direction for the ending already. It will require a little reorganization of the last few chapters I've written, but I think it'll work :) At least, that's the way it's looking in the very early going!

I know many of you outline before you write (which kind of blows my mind by the way!) and some of you do it later - the way I'm doing it now. I'm curious as to what your outlines look like. Are they "thin" like the ones I use, or "thick"? Do you include a lot of details? Which style works for you?

46 comments:

  1. I'll be honest, my outline changes at least 3 times per wip. Now mind you that's only because I wind up changing how the story goes.

    I have the main outline on my whiteboard, the major points on file and a separate sheet with the chapters title and a tiny description of it. And just like you I also include a side note of which pov it's in.

    Can't wait to hear more about the progress you're making Jemi! :D

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  2. Layna - I love it :) I hate being trapped in a particular pattern, so a changing outline wouldn't bother me at all!

    I'm impressed you use so many different media for keeping track of your story. With all the stories you have on the go, I think it's a necessity!

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  3. Congratulations on your progress. I don't really do outlines....I make notes on notecards. LOL When I make any kind of uh...outline...it's very thin. :) I also don't outline until midway through...then I outline more as I revise LOL

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  4. I like the notecard idea, but I would probably lose everything! I'm not always good at keeping track of my paper world, but I don't lose things on the laptop :)

    I don't outline in advance either - only after the first draft. As I do my first read through, I make the outline then!

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  5. Thin outlines. Definitely thin. Except for flash fiction--no outlines there. :)

    Since I've committed to starting and finishing a novel next year, we'll see what that process looks like for me. I anticipate thin outlining, then writing, then trashing the outline at some point, then getting stuck and having to write a new outline, then finishing and thinking it all sucks. I could be wrong, though...

    Congrats on discovering that your NaNo novel is kinda cool!

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  6. I like to make a list of 'must have' scenes and include the smaller details as they come to me.
    But I have a huge problem with staying in line with my outlines, so it's usually just a reference guide for when I need to remember something.
    And congrats on picking up your NaNo novel again. It's always fun to go back and realize how much better it is than you actually thought!

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  7. Simon - That's kind of my process :)

    Gotta have a few moments of doubt during the writing - otherwise that overconfidence would be a killer :)

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  8. Julie - I've never thought of doing it that way. I don't think I'll ever outline in advance because I'm pretty sure I couldn't stick to it. My characters don't always do what they're supposed to do :)

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  9. My outline changes for each WIP. I've done page by page outlines for some and barely anything for others. Some have focussed on character motivations, others on building tension, etc.

    It sounds like yours is working for your story and that's what matters.

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  10. Jean - so true. In my last ms, the outline was longer, more detailed. I found it much less helpful, and shortened it up a lot!

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  11. I'll have to let you know! I'm going to outline my new WIP and am starting really soon... But I'm planning to do a very detailed outline for it (following a book about outlining-I wanted to give it a try!)

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  12. I have nothing more than a general, overall feeling of the story and mc's when I start writing, so there's nothing to outline.

    I think there are as many different ways to outline ("writing foreplay" - now there's a blog topic!) as their are ways to write books. That's what makes it all so subjective and magical.

    For my latest ms, I wrote a couple of paragraphs about my story idea before I started writing in order to pitch it to the person who later became my agent. ;-)

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  13. Outlines? *shudder* I try to avoid outlining at all costs. Before, after, whenever. So mine are very very thin. Very. Thin.

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  14. My outlines are usually one page. I tend to think of an entire story arc when I'm inspired to write so I write it down so I don't forget. It also helps keep me motivated- sometimes I feel lost when I finish a scene.

    I also include the historical events in my outlines. That's one of the pros and cons of writing historical fiction- there are some things I have to include!

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  15. Thin, THIN, THIN! :) I only outline *after* a scene has played out in my head to make sure I don't forget a plot point. I do work from research notes, however. Getting the psychological, sociological and historical aspects right is important to me. Everything else is fluid.

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  16. Sara - good luck with that - I don't think I could do it. It sure works for a lot of people though!

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  17. Debra - that's similar to the way I work - very general idea only. It certainly worked out very well for you!

    And I look forward to your next outline blog :)

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  18. Elana - I'm glad I'm not the only one who can't outline in advance! I do like doing a thin outline afterwards - mostly so it takes me less time to find sections when I'm revising/editing.

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  19. Stephanie - Historical fiction would certainly be a different ballgame. You'd have to follow timelines, especially if the writing centres around a true event!

    Thanks so much for dropping by and the follow :)

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  20. VR - I do a lot of work in my head too. For one of my stories I had to do a lot of advance work on setting & I had tons of notes on that before I started to write :)

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  21. I don't really use them, but I do get ideas for later scenes (I put those bits of dialogue and parts of scenes in a file I label "Random") and I have short mini-outlines, sometimes at the top of each page, for the direction of the scene I'm currently writing.

    Elizabeth
    Mystery Writing is Murder

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  22. Elizabeth - I like the idea of a Random file! I think I may just have to incorporate that one. It would work for my style :)

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  23. We definitely outline--basically go chapter by chapter with a short description of what we think will happen in each chapter. But obviously, as we write, the outline changes quite a bit. But we think it helps to start each chapter with a vague idea of what COULD happen--then it's really fun to see what DOES happen!

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  24. I do a loose outline that can change as the book is written. I call it FAPping or Free Association Plotting. (I talk about it on my Resources for Writers section on my website - http://helenginger.com/writing_advice.htm#fapping.) My outlines are never set in cement when I start writing; they change and evolve as the book does.

    Helen
    Straight From Hel

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  25. Lisa & Laura - that does sound like a good way to work :) I like that you're not at all trapped by the outline - my stories don't always listen to me either. :)

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  26. Helen - Sounds very interesting! I'll check it out. It's so fascinating to see how everyone works :)

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  27. I began Nano with a draft of part II and III of a trilogy, although I still needed to write a lot of chapters to fill in the gaps. I accomplished much and am much further along because of the event. I'm taking a break to catch up on things and spend time with my family during the holidays, but will jump back in head first the beginning of January.

    Stephen Tremp

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  28. I'm afraid I'm not much help to you in the outlining department. But I want to wish you lots of joy and happy surprises as you rework the Nano novel!! Fun times.

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  29. Stephen - Good for you! That's a lot of progress. My December's been crazy busy, but I'm hoping to do a little bit of revising over the next 2 weeks before I go back to school.

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  30. Carol - Thanks. I'm enjoying it, although it's really tough to fit in the time! I'm pleased at the tightness of the writing so far. It's not perfect by any means, but it's much, much better than my last first draft :)

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  31. I daydream the story before I write it, then keep a mental outline as I write it. Then on rewrite -- well, I'm struggling to find the perfect mechanism for me to keep track of everything. I'm experimenting now with end notes in Word. At the end of every scene, I add an end note with who is in the scene, the major action and goal, etc. I also end note first references to characters, places, ceremonies, etc. The end notes give me a hyperlink between the story and the end note section. So I can glance at the end notes and see the progression of the story. If I see something I want to change, I hyperlink back into the story, make changes and move stuff around without deleting the end note, and it automatically moves. I'm liking that at the moment.

    Good luck!

    Jeff Posey

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  32. Jeff - I really like the idea of keeping an outline as I write - I might be able to do that :)

    I'm still getting used to Word (used Corel on my old laptop). I haven't found the end notes feature, but it sounds like a great tool! Thanks :)

    Thanks for stopping by!

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  33. I outline before writing, and it's usually a series of short lines or paragraphs depecting each major scene. I don't worry about chapters & such until I am done writing, either. My finished work will be slightly different from the outline, but I usually follow it pretty close. I only change when I discover a scene is non-essential or that a character would not act in that manner.

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  34. Diane - I'm impressed - I just can't seem to do the outline first :) My characters just don't follow very well.

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  35. Thin. Very very thin. Sometimes, so thin it's translucent.

    I'm definitely a pantser. Wish I wasn't though. Gets tedious wondering what's going to happen next in your own story :)

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  36. Q - translucent outlines - I like it!

    I kind of like being a pantster. It keeps it exciting and interesting when I'm writing!!

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  37. My out line is often thin and changeable/very flexible. It tends to change with the story if that makes any sense. Good luck with your story and every happiness to you my dear.
    Warmest regards,
    Simone.

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  38. Simone - that's about the only outline I could do. I like flexibility!

    Thank you - and best wishes in return :)

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  39. Hey Jemi - you won another award :-) It's on my blog... Just bc yours is so awesome!

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  40. You're such a sweetie Sara! Thank you - I'll pop over and check it out :)

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  41. Well, as a PB writer, I'd have to say thin! ha ha I'm a little outta my league on this one, but it looks like you have a lot of fabulous feedback! :)

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  42. Shannon - I don't think you're out of your league at all - just playing a different sport :)

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  43. No outline. I used an 'idea board' and a story tracking board for my current manuscript. It worked out well for me.

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  44. Terry - I've never used an idea board for my own writing - even though it's one of the ways I teach students how to write at school :)

    Thanks for dropping by!

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  45. Have a Merry Christmas, girl! Best of luck with your writing in 2010.

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  46. Jean - Thanks! Merry Christmas in return - all the best :)

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