Monday, December 7, 2009

The Power of Outlining

Okay, Lady Glamis, pick yourself up off the floor!!

There is a power in outlining. Now, as anyone who reads this blog knows: I normally don't outline. Okay, I do, but I don't, so what I do, really doesn't count.

Or rather . . . what I did really doesn't count.

You see . . . gasp, the horrors . . . I outlined last week. Totally. I had this idea for a new project, broke the book into three sections, and actually wrote down events that need to happen in each section. I even went so far as to note what emotions the MC should experience in a few of the chapters.


I hate to admit this, but . . . this whole outlining (still very loose, nothing as detailed as Lady Glamis or Scott Bailey might do) thingy has made the writing process easier. I mean, I actually, for the most part, know what I'm going to write about each time I sit down at the computer.

Okay, I have the basics of what I'm going to write about, a series of events I want to happen, but this does make the process a wee bit easier. There are still many blanks to fill in between the events I know I want to write about, so there are stages of the process that are a complete mystery to me . . . and that's not a bad thing.

I'm not all into this structure thing, knowing what's going to happen next, and all that jazz. Sometimes, I like to be surprised. So, yeah, I did a fairly detailed (well, at least in my little world) outline, but nothing so detailed as Lady Glamis and Scott B.

So, for the unenlightened, here's a brief snippet of my outline process . . .

Section 1
* Event 1
* Event 2
* conversation that goes w/event 2
* this chapter should convey MC anger/disappointment, etc.
*Event 3
*Unknown Event

Section 2
*Event 1
* conversation that goes w/event 1
* Event 2
* this chapter should convey . . .

Section 3

The End

Okay, this is a really simplistic view of the outline. Mine keeps growing and growing. It's really quite frightening. I have written out some conversations that need to take place in certain events and bullet-pointed them into the outline. I'm keeping the chapters fairly short and sweet - direct, to the point, and no excess baggage.

As you can probably see, this is a loose outlining process that provides the stepping stones for the various chapters, but only the first few stones. The rest of the stones I have to put in place as I go . . . and I happen to like that style of writing. I don't want a detailed map, because, at least for me, half the fun of writing any story is the unknown adventure my characters take me on. Sometimes, in the middle of a chapter, a character does something so unexpected, so not on the outline, that it makes the writing fun and exciting.

So, I outlined this future project, but I'm not sure if I'll stick to his scheme on the next project, or the next one, or the next one. I guess I - and you, dear readers - will just have to wait and see.

Now, for the questions that should (at least in my opinion, be the part of any writer's blog): How about you? Do you wing it? Outline it? A combination of both? Are there benefits to your method? Disadvantages?



Davin Malasarn said...

I have mostly winged it in the earlier drafts of my stories. I tend to do vomit drafts, and then I think about structure later, after I can see what sort of material my subconscious has come up with. But, like you, Michelle and Scott convinced me to try outlining. I outlined a novel and started writing it for NaNo. About halfway through, though, I got bored and stopped working on the project. I felt like the standard three-act structure I had chosen felt boring to me because I was suddenly seeing it in any movie I watched. I think outlining can work, but my first attempt--while eye-opening--was something I wasn't interested in following through on.

Scott said...

Davin - I have no clue where the idea of three sections came from, it just sort of happened. I also have more 'events' planned out for Section 1, then 2 & 3, so I'll have to wait and see what happens. Still, it's interesting . . . and I guess that's a good thing.


Lady Glamis said...

I knew I'd pull you over to the dark side. Me and Scott will get Davin there, too. It's just a matter of time. I think he'll be like you one day and it will just happen without him even knowing what's happened. Mwhahahaha!

No, really, outlining is not for everybody, and I don't think it's necessarily great for me with first drafts, but every other stage it's absolutely necessary.

SJDuvall said...

I love to outline. Seriously, it might be a sickness. (Yes, I think it's called being OCD). But yeah, in the past, I've spent long periods of time outlining books.
Now I take a little bit more of a relaxed approach. Instead of a 30 page outline, I have about 5-10 pages.

And my newest WIP, I even went so far as to stop outlining about 3/4ths the way through and I'm just going to see where the book ends up. Scary times! :)

Jody Hedlund said...

I am outline queen. Yes, just call me the queen! I outline each scene with a page full of details I want to include. Then when I'm done with the scene I circle what I didn't use so that I can try to include it in another part later. I love it. I'm strange, I know!

Scott said...

Lady Glamis - as long as, after a deathy defying light saber battle, you don't turn out to be my father . . . I guess I'm okay with this foray into the dark side! Ha! For me, the outlining thing is sort of like putting together a jigsaw puzzle - a piece here, one there, move that way there, and voila . . . the picture begins to form. I'm pretty sure the outline wouldn't have worked with some past projects, but it's doing okay for this one.

S.J. - I believe they have therapy programs for people like you, and Lady Glamis. : ) Oh, and I love the scary times of having no plan and just seeing what happens with the characters in my projects. Woo-hoo!

Jody - all hail the Queen, though I thought Lady Glamis held that title. Is there some ceremony where the crown is passed from person to person? Ha! I think whatever works for whatever writer is great. I know Scott Bailey goes into infinite detail with his outlines. At this point, I have about four pages of stuff broken into three sections. It might or might not grow from there. : )


Lady Glamis said...

I will fight for the title of Queen. Maybe. I'm currently on a break. Hmmm. :)

Scott said...

Perhaps we need to do an outline contest . . .

Lady Glamis said...

Perhaps, but how would you do that?

Scott said...

Lady Glamis - I have no clue, it was just a late in the day thought! Those aren't always my best thoughts. : ) Perhaps we need some type of outline trivia contest and whoever gets the most answers correct gets the crown! : )

ElanaJ said...

I'm so not an outliner. The best I can do is write a few sentences for what might happen in each chapter. Rarely does it come to fruition. I'm much better at outlining after I've written the book. Then I decide what can be cut, what's not moving the plot forward, etc.

Tess said...

Aw, look at you ... outlining now. You just had to go over to the dark side, didn't you?

Tess said...

Crud . I thought my comment was all original, then I saw Glam wrote the same thing. Oh well, great minds...

Robyn Campbell said...

Scott, wing it. I do an outline in my head, and then I type Chapter One. I find if I start to do outlines it quiets my creativity. It makes my story all stuffy.

I'm glad it's working for you though. I wonder what what his next story will be about. Hmmmm I did pick up a blog post yesterday. Hmmm

An outline contest? Shudder :)

Scott said...

Elana - I'm really not much of an outliner either. My outline is very basic, and very not detailed. Event 1 - formal dinner. Event 2 - incident in hallway. So, not formal, not at all, more just a little guide. I'm not sure I'll stick with the outlining thing.

Tess - great minds do think alike! Ha! Outlining has been interesting . . . so far. I'm still not sure it will become a part of my writing routine.

Robyn - I normally wing it, and will still do so in the future. For whatever reason, this project alone, the semi-outline I did is working. There are still a ton of blank spaces I'll have to fill in, and that will be done by the seat of my pants. Woo-hoo!!

Anonymous said...

I find that every book is a bit like reinventing the wheel. Sometimes I outline, sometimes I don't.

I find that, when I'm juggling multiple contracts and deadlines, outlines helped because I can sit down and focus on the project of the moment. I know where I'm going and can dive right in.

The biggest thing I've found helpful is to remember that the outline is the roadmap, but you're allowed to take any tangents that interest you. It's not a prison.


Cammie said...

Hi Scott! To answer your questions, I generally start outlining after I've written the first couple of chapters. By then, I have a sense of where the novel is headed. I only outline about 5-10 chapters ahead, 'cause I like to keep things fluid. My outlining technique is very informal, usually just a stream of consciousness kind of thing.