Thursday, September 22, 2011

Outlining


I'm plotting a new book. I'm a diehard outliner, so this phase of writing takes me a looong time. I love writing from an outline, I love knowing where I'm going and exactly how each scene is going to play out (not that it always goes like I planned it, but I like at least having an idea of how I want it to go).

But the outlining phase takes so long (at least for me), and I'm just itching to dive in and start writing words and to hear what my main character wants to say. I'm so tempted to jump ahead and start writing, but I know if I do I'll write myself into a corner and make a huge mess. I wish I could just wing it, but that's not how I work. So here I sit, outlining away and imagining scenes in my head and wishing I was putting words on paper.

How about you? Do you outline or do you wing it? If you outline, do you enjoy that part of the process?

40 comments:

Jen Daiker said...

I LOVE OUTLINING! Had you asked me that question a year ago I would have said I'm a panster.

Outlining helps me with the synopsis, any writers block that might come my way, character development. It answers all the questions my panster self used to spend days mulling over. It takes care of all the problems! I love it!

It's not for everyone but it's definitely for me!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I always outline. Usually takes me a couple weeks. I'll do one outline and then make many, many changes.

Anne Gallagher said...

I don't outline until I've written 100 pages. I'm like you in that I have to get the characters onto the paper, but I tend to outline by pg 100 that way they DON'T write me into a corner.

Joanne said...

I like to outline, and to really build that outline with research. An outline gives me the room to be more creative and thoughtful with the actual story writing.

Les Edgerton said...

I always outline, but not with a "Comp I" kind of outline. I use a 15-20 word outline, containing statements. !. Inciting incident--whatever happens to create the story problem. 2-4 are statements defining the outcomes of the three major actions the protagonist takes to resolve the problem, and 5. The resolution. It gives me a roadmap to follow, but lots and lots of freedom on how to get there.

Sometimes, I change it up a bit and just apply tried and true screenwriting tactics. I'll lay on the couch and run my story through my imagination as a "movie" and jot down each scene on note cards, aiming for between 45 and 60 scene cards, numbered sequentially. I then pin them up on a board and each day write the next scene(s). Since screenplays don't use sequels, I just add those where needed.

Old Kitty said...

Outline?!?! I jump in - feet first and then drown! LOL!!! Then again I get inspired when under pressure like that! Madness!

GOOD LUCK with this sparkly new book of yours! Yay!! Take care
x

Brian said...

I agree! Without an outline it's hard to tell where I'd end up!

Shakespeare said...

I outline, but I also often write out the key scenes--the climax, some crucial exchange between characters--so that I know where I'm heading somewhat more tangibly. Then again, those scenes have NEVER survived. NEVER. By then so much as changed that I realize they don't have the emotional grip they should have, and my rewrite of the scene is infinitely better.

I say do it the way that works best for you. If it doesn't work, it simply doesn't work.

Kristie Cook said...

I agree with Shakespeare - do what works best for you. But I'll add - don't be afraid to change things up. The overwhelming need to start writing a scene may be your character trying to tell you that whatever you're putting in the outline is wrong. That's not how it happened. I've started sort-of outlining recently, but I always listen to the characters. I've learned not to force my way because their way always makes a better story.

lizakane said...

I preplanned my first novel from character sketches to scene outlines, and I think I killed the life out of it.
So, for my current novel-in-progress, I just started writing, with a few big scenes that I had in mind like the major turning points and "The End." I wrote the first two chapters in one sitting, and knew the voice/my characters so well, that I've steadily progressed through the story doing a blend of "pantsing" and plotting. I just plot a few scenes ahead now and weave the story along.
It's awesome that we're all so different in our writing process! If you have the urge to write a bit on the story, I say do it, and see where that takes you!

Jackee said...

Sometimes it's good to keep a character journal both to stave off the need to write words while outlining and to also nail down a character. But I know how you feel! I just want to write the dang thing, even though I know I need to wait.

Have a great day, dear!

Talli Roland said...

I really enjoy outlining - it usually takes me a few days. I don't plot everything in exhaustive detail, but I do need to know mu characters' motivations and turning points.

Madeleine said...

I am teaching myself to outline so that I don't stall at the crucial hurdle as I have done so many times before.

DL Hammons said...

I'm a outliner, and I LOVE that phase. Specifically, the anticipation as I prepare. I'm like Alex though, it only takes me a couple of weeks to outline. I try not to be too detailed in the outline so I have some freedom when I actually start writing. :)

DEZMOND said...

outlining is nice because it gives you the form, the sense of order and we all know most writers are order freaks :)

The Happy Whisk said...

Great little cartoon you have there. Love those things. When it comes to writing, I like both ways. Just depends. No set way for me.

Hope all else is well. Things are busy with the new pup, but she is also a great deal of fun.

Cheers.

Dianne K. Salerni said...

I just wrote about this yesterday, in fact! I am an unapologetic pantster. "Outlining" consists of a jumbled list of brainstormed ideas and lasts only until I feel that opening scene busting out. Then I let the characters and their actions drive the story. I usually know the ending and a few key events in the middle, but I never know how I'm going to connect all the dots until I do.

RaShelle Workman said...

I'm a big-time outliner. Huge!

The Golden Eagle said...

I outline, but it's not the most fun part of the process--though I do like it. Getting out an idea and seeing it form on the page is great. :)

Lynda R Young said...

I used to wing it. It gets messy in the revision stage. Now I outline and it takes me a long while too, but it's so worth it. I had this brainstorm halfway through the current outline I'm working on and all I had to do was slot in a change of events without having to rewrite the whole thing. It's brilliant and gives me so much more freedom.

Kim Williams said...

i don't like to outline. i'm more of a 'throw up on the page' and sort it out later kind of guy. ;)

when i get so lost in my own mess, however, i do find an outline helpful. most often, the outline comes as part of the sort it out later phase.

Sharon K. Mayhew said...

So far I seem to write whole pb manuscripts without an outline, on chapter books and novels I make a whole bunch of notes about each character and potential scenes...then I write each scene/chapter. I don't think I can sit still long enough to do outlines like you do. You are a great planner. :D

Stephen Tremp said...

Its vital to outline. I spend quite a bit of time writing the structure and highlights. Makes developing the rest of the story and characters that much easier.

Carol Riggs said...

I certainly don't do detailed outlines. Just general plot guidelines, so I can start writing the first few chapters. Then I can go back to my outline and fill things in and plan them more.

Lydia Kang said...

I am the SAME way. I get so itchy to start writing but I have to have a pretty complete outline. It's like the "outline wiggles" or something.

J.C. Martin said...

Definitely outline. I have a chapter-by-chapter rundown of the whole novel before I even start writing. Of course, the outline can change as I write and new ideas pop in my head. It's not set in stone, but at least it's easier to track changes throughout the whole book.

Barbara Kloss said...

Hello!

I definitely outline, but I SO know what you're talking about. DRIVES ME BONKERS! Actually, with the one I'm currently working on, I gave in to my impatience *gasp!* and, well, had to tell all of my characters to go to Fiji on vacay so that I could think. *shakes head*

But then, some of those ideas don't actually come till the writing commences. Will we ever find the perfect balance? Seems like it's different each time.

Dawn Simon said...

I am a total outliner. I get what you mean. I love jumping in and getting to WRITE THE BOOK! I have to outline first, though. Otherwise I, too, will write myself into a corner. Outlining is not my favorite part of the process, but it helps me sooo much!

Beth said...

I wing it. I wish I could outline (I think it would save a lot of time) but that's just not what works for me!

Elliot MacLeod-Michael said...

I am the consummate winger. I've been working on the same novel on and off for many years and still have only a vague idea of where it will end up. I am more concerned with the language of the telling, to be honest. That's what I agonize over.

Anonymous said...

I'm "Anonymous" Marcia, since Google won't let me comment as me on several blogs. :(

I wing it. I get the best plot ideas when I'm underway and one thing leads to another. But once I'm 50 or so pages in, I start talking to myself and making notes about what comes next. It's like an outline of sorts grows along with the draft.

LindyLouMac in Italy said...

I am not a writer but I imagine if I was I would want to do exactly what you are doing.

Deniz Bevan said...

Eek! I could never work like you :-) I find out about a story by writing it; if I plot in advance, I end up getting bored and dropping the whole thing. Maybe you could just write an itty bitty scene? The opening?

alexia said...

I start with a very slim outline (like beginning and end and a few parts in between) and then I just start writing. As my story evolves and I realize more where it's going, I pause and outline some more and do some subplot mapping. Then, when I edit, I write a very detailed outline so I can look at it and make sure everything is in the right place. Sort of a weird process :)

Talei said...

I love outlining the plot, its just filling in the chapters in between. And the revising - I'm finding the need to change the order of the story.

Hope you're having a fab weekend!

Rebecca Emin said...

I am exactly the opposite, I sit and write whatever jumps into my head. It's interesting to discover how different people use different techniques.

Nas Dean said...

I like to outline, then building that outline with research. An outline gives me space to be more creative with the actual story.

Arlee Bird said...

I never outline and it probably wouldn't hurt at all if I did. I just like to jump in and get started. I do pretty well with NaNoWriMo.


Lee
Tossing It Out

Medeia Sharif said...

I outline and it takes me weeks to create one. I don't work on it exclusively, but I keep it open and type as new ideas hit me.

Kim said...

Susan - I'm glad you're back! Good luck on the outlining process - I enjoyed reading all the comments and getting some ideas of my own :)