Thursday, February 7, 2013

Ouch! It's an Outline!

Sort of...

Have I mentioned lately how much you all rock? Because you do - seriously! When I called out for help on outlining and plotting, you gave me great ideas - and badly needed sympathy and empathy.

I spent days looking into the different options and thinking about what might work. Here's what I tried (at least the parts I remember...).
  • from my Scrivener chapter notes I made an outline with a bullet for each scene
  • from this I made a shorter outline using one bullet per chapter
  • I brainstormed a bunch of 'what if's
  • then I made an excel story bible to help me out
  • a 7 point story outline came next (kinda bombed at this though)
  • I made another excel sheet using the short outline and adding columns for internal and external conflict for each scene
  • I scribbled on all the printed out pages with the changes I could think of (this might have been the hardest part - I mean how are you supposed to know what happens until you write it???). Confession - didn't manage to finish *sigh*
  • a webby thing that should match my brain but didn't
  • I opened a new Scrivener document and surrounded myself with my papers, notes and spreadsheets
And nearly cried. Okay, not really, but I have to say looking at all those papers nearly sent my go-with-the-flow, pantsty, intuitive soul into a panic.

I believe I stared at the papers and the open documents for several days...

Following an outline is really, really hard!! My creativity and ideas totally dried up. *sigh*

So, I read through all your comments again, looking for the enthusiasm you all shared. That helped!

I reviewed my notes then packed them all away, closed all the documents except the new Scrivener file and the short outline with the conflict bits.

And guess what? It took me most of the last week, but I have the first 2 chapters rewritten. I can't believe how slowly I'm going - I feel like I'm wading through thigh high mud, but I'm making progress. I like the female MC much better this time and the conflict is improved (I know it's early - let me hang on to the delusions for now!). Now that I'm aware of the coincidence issue, I hope to avoid it with the thoughts zipping around in my head and some occasional checking in with my outlines.

So for now, I'll keep trying to work with this quasi-outline idea - even though I can feel my right brain pushing to escape! If nothing else, it's a learning experience and I do like to learn new stuff!

Have you ever tried writing in total opposition to your natural style? How'd that work out for you?


  1. I have always just gone with the flow. I think that's probably one of the reasons that I refuse (so far) to attempt writing a book. I don't want this glorious experience to become work and drudgery! Though I must admit ... some income (and maybe even attention) would be very nice!

  2. Hey, Jemi,
    It's cool that you're trying something different and that it's coming together for you. Keep moving forward.

  3. Beth - I love the whole process - but finding ways to improve it can be more than a little tough! But creating that whole novel that works is awesome! :)

    JL - thanks! I do like new things - even when they're hard - so I'm doing okay! :)

  4. I outlined my last book and it worked out very well for me.

  5. Ms. H - That's good to hear - it's more than a little terrifying! :)

  6. Hi Jemi!

    Good for you for trying this! I'm not a natural plotter either, but I force myself to think through where I am, but I have to let myself work in layers long to short. I often have to throw in a bit of dialogue before I can tell if something is going to work, and most importantly, I have to know my characters and what they are wrestling wirth. At that point, I write goals for each character in the scene and make sure those are at least in some small measure in opposition to each other. I then classify the scene as a success, success but, fail, or fail and furthermore with respect to the pov characters goals, and I track the outcome and the overall change in the story. (If there's no change, I have to go bak to the drawing board) the great thing is that I can do this at any point in the story to refocus the scene.

    Hang in there! And holler if you want to toss things around with a fresh pair of ears or eyes. I love plotting!

  7. I tried to pants it once and completely failed! The story went absolutely nowhere and I ditched it completely. Maybe I'll return to it someday with an outline! :) I do enjoy the pantsing that happening when I'm writing a chapter though. I leave plenty of room for creativity.

  8. Martina - your brain makes me shudder with awe!!! That's awesome! I especially love this line... 'I write goals for each character in the scene and make sure those are at least in some small measure in opposition to each other.' Going to try that!

    Laura - I wish I could do that - and maybe with some practice I can. I'm trying to treat this as a 1st draft that I just know too much about - hoping to trick my brain that way! :)

  9. Jemi, I think what you did is really cool. No matter what, you got your brain thinking of alternate ideas and conflicts. Pantsers blow me away. I don't know how you do it! I'm such a planner and organizer, and plotting helps me out a lot. Although I plot with index cards, that way I have plenty of flexibility to play as I write.

    Good luck!

  10. Hi Jemi,

    Sorry I've not um thrilled you with one of my much loved comments for quite some time :) However, I reckon I should get bonus points for leaving a comment at almost four in the morning. Time zones, eh!

    I have no natural style of writing. I write in so many styles I can barely keep up with myself. That's why it's good when Penny the Jack Russell dog and modest internet superstar, takes over writing on my site, eh.

    I'm outta' here. Goodnight....

    Gary :)

  11. Yeah! You didn't have to scrap everything and start over.
    I think all of that would make me cry as well. I just type out a basic outline, fill out a character profile, and that's it.

  12. Outlining can be so hard! It's not following outlines that's my problem, it's writing them in the first place. Ack. :) Well, congrats that you got a lot of it figured out, and good luck on the rest! :)

  13. I love "what if" brainstorms! Sometimes they get a little crazy, but that's the best technique I've found when I really get stuck with a plot.

    Glad things are working out!

  14. Keep all your outlines and notes but close them and let your pantser brain run free for a bit. Then reopen the outline and see how much for the free writing fits the outline. It may be with that outline stuck in the back of your mind, your free writing will follow along.

    Up to a point, of course.

  15. Jemi, I can totally relate. I'm a very organized person and outline my work in a manner of speaking at my job as an attorney. So I thought after how long book 1 took that I would outline my new project. It just didn't work. So I outlined the key plot points and started writing.

    And even though I know where my story goes completely, it's slow like you and I feel like I have to fight to get the words out. So don't feel like you're alone in this and keep at it. Thanks for sharing.

  16. I should save this post to help me through my manuscript which has been dormant for about six months. I don't know whether it's because I've done so much planning, but it feels a bit flat. I like writing intuitively, too, and it's hard trying to plan.

  17. I'm a plotter. I've tried pantsing and it did not go well. I really like The Plot Whisperer Workbook by Martha Alderson for helping me plan! I use several different methods though.

    Good luck with your outline and rewriting!!

  18. Julie - thanks! I thought about using the index cards, but I know I'd lose them and mess up the order over and over and over! :)

    Gary - 4 am!!!! You should be sleeping and dreaming the good dreams! Hope that's happening as I write this :) I should have called Penny for her advice first!!

    Alex - yeah indeed! I think that's what I've kind of got going on now - although only the 1st half or so... :)

    Bethany - thanks! I'm not holding my breath this is the end of it, but at least I'm back in again!

    Stephanie - those what ifs are my favourite part too! :)

    Linda - that's what I'm hoping! My brain has to have some free reign or it might just implode! :)

    Natalie - it helps so much to know others are struggling too - being alone stinks! Thanks!!

    Beth - exactly! Knowing too much takes the fun out of it - I like knowing the 2 MCs will end up together, but that's about it :)

    Laura - thanks - I'll check into that one too! It's hard finding something that sort of works... :)

  19. I tried to just pants once. WHAT A MESS!!
    Yet, it totally works for others. I once tried detailed outlining. Forget that too. I felt like I was in 12th grade English class. No fun. Now I try to keep my outlines very light and roomy so things can change yet I have a semi guide.

  20. And who said writing is easy? NO ONE! Or if they did, I need to punch 'em.

    I'm glad you're back on track. Hang in there.

  21. Jennifer - light and roomy sounds like what I'm aiming for now - hoping it works!! :)

    Teresa - I'll join you! :) I'm hoping I'm on track to. A little early to be sure, but I'm hoping!

  22. For me, the funniest thing is when I plot and plan and then the character do totally the opposite thing I would have imagined.

  23. Good luck and great job trying something new. I like to outline, as I mentioned. But- I just use it as a guide and anything can still change. I hope using the outline gets easier for you. :)

  24. Boo-yah!

    Totally the opposite would be to wing it, and not sure I could do that.

  25. Good for you, Jemi! I didn't see your Sunday post until today. You received excellent advice. I plot major points because I don't want to get stuck during the writing with 'what should she do now' and have it conflict with something else. That said, once I start writing, my muse kicks in with details and sometimes I still have to back up and redo before I can move forward again.

  26. Nas - now that sounds like fun to me! I love when the characters take over :)

    Jess - I hope so too :P - if it stays this hard it'll send me over the edge!! :)

    Diane - but winging it is soooo much fun! Love letting it all fly :)

    Carol - I'm wondering if I'll do that kind of thing with my next first draft - stop partway through and do a re-evaluation - see how things are clicking. I like to draft during NaNo and that seems to cause an issue or 2... :)

  27. By the looks of things you don't require any advice from me! It sounds like you're doing okay on your own :) All the best!

  28. Wendy - well, not too sure about 'doing okay', but I'm making progress! :) Thanks :)

  29. Progress is progress, no matter how slow it is. :) Congrats!

    My natural style is to plot things out, at least after I've finished several thousand words; I've tried to pants, but I always feel too directionless and lost after a while.

  30. Golden Eagle - true! I'll take any progress! :)

    I love the joy of pantsting - just have to figure out a way to add a tad more organization to it :)

  31. I'd always follow my natural style, that is what makes us unique, and I love it when words flow out of us like a river, without any pushing from our side. That is the sign of divine talent :)

  32. I must say....that doesn't sound like any fun at all.

    My right brain is too dominate, I fear.

    But whatever works, works. There are as many different ways to write a novel as there are ways to plant a garden.

    We just have to mind the weeds!

  33. Dezzy - I love that too! There is absolutely nothing like the feel of words and stories and characters rushing to pour onto the paper.

    Yvonne - I know! My right brain is having more than a few hissy fits along the way :) I'm trying to find a way to smooth out the rough edges - hopefully it works :)

  34. Baby steps! It's not easy changing the creative process. I'm impressed with how hard you're working at it, giving every method a fair shake! :)

  35. DL - I'm trying ... killing my brain maybe, but I'm trying!!! :)

  36. Absolutely. I went from pantster to plotter, and I'm willing to try out different genres. I'm sure you'll pick up speed.

  37. Medeia - I hope so! If not, I'm doomed :) Actually, I think once I have the first bits down, I'll be back in the flow and that should help! :)

  38. I used to make a "rough" outline, but lately I find myself getting more and more detailed with the planning. Dare I say, I find it freeing?

  39. Leslie - really??? I find that so hard to imagine right now - maybe I'll feel that way one day too! Gotta keep practising :)

  40. Hi Jemi!

    It really is wonderful that you tried something new and now are moving forward! Sometimes a change is all it needs.

    All the best!

  41. Nas - thanks! I'm hoping to incorporate a little plotting or outlining at a time - maybe I can fool my brain that way! :)

  42. I'm a pantster when it comes to writing short pieces. So when I started my novel, I tried the same approach. All I can say is, I read your post and know how you feel. I had to start over by writing a detailed summary to help me with filling in some holes and developing my characters my more. Good luck with your story!

  43. Melissa - It's so good to have company on the frustration side of the world! I'm hoping it'll go well this time! Thanks :)

  44. Searching - yup! It's all good ... well, almost :)