So... Outline's. What's up with that!?


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Thread: So... Outline's. What's up with that!?

  1. #1
    Member Rojack79's Avatar
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    So... Outline's. What's up with that!?

    Seeing as this is my first full length novel that I'll be writing for publishment does anyone have any advice on how to go about setting up the outline? I have a strong grasp of what an outline is for and how it work's normally but I fell like asking around first just to get feel for what I'm going to be getting into and to see what other's have to say on this subject.
    This might not be my best work but that just means there's room to improve.

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  2. #2
    I'm a big fan of John Truby, and have been trying to outline a novel according to his book, "The Anatomy of Story."

    I haven't been successful with it yet. I've thrown out a good number of outlines, trying to find something that works according to his method that has legs. I think I'm finding it with this one, but it is a bit of a skill to stick to his form.

    In the past (2 unpublished novels) I would outline by writing up a half page about each character, then what I thought would happen at the major events of the story, guess how many chapters would be in each act, guess what each chapter would be about (at least for the first half of the book) and then start writing, updating the outline as I went.

    In both books, there were a lot of structural problems I didn't really have a hope of addressing in the revision process (partly because I couldn't see what they were). So, right now I'm being a lot more involved with my outline.

  3. #3
    I have not used an outline myself, but I know a lot of writers find them very useful tools. Just for myself, I find an outline somewhat limits creativity. I used to think I was the only one who wrote without one, but have found others (even here ) who just go by their inspiration and where their characters take them. I'm saying this as a caveat to your question - if you find the development of an outline too much of a struggle; if you work harder to refine that tool than you think you should have to, maybe you should just try writing your story and see where it takes you. Good luck!
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  4. #4
    Mentor Dluuni's Avatar
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    Read several beat sheets. Track how they work, in general. Summarize Your Story, from beginning to end. See how it fits to the beat sheets, in general. Fine tune it. Summarize the story from beginning to end, a few more times. Fine-tune a little bit more each time. Elaborate a bit more on the details each time. Look up for the story from the point of view of each one of the major characters. Are they doing anything that doesn't make sense? Is there anything where it's just a hazy? Go back and touch those up.
    Now, break it up into scenes. Write down a description of each one of the scenes, what that scene does, what is changing in each scene, trying to make sure that every scene is moving the story forward.
    At this point, your summary is going to be pretty long. Make another pass over it, touching things up, tracking things that need to happen for other things to happen. Then, use each one of the scene outlines to plan out each one of your chapters as you write it. Read each scene outline, then checklist that the things in the outline go into the chapter itself. How to write, periodically look back at your outline to see how things are going. If things are changing on you, try to use the outline to help you diagnose why. The change might be for the better, or it might be you getting lost.

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by Rojack79 View Post
    Seeing as this is my first full length novel that I'll be writing for publishment does anyone have any advice on how to go about setting up the outline? I have a strong grasp of what an outline is for and how it work's normally but I fell like asking around first just to get feel for what I'm going to be getting into and to see what other's have to say on this subject.
    If I am going to outline, I like to keep it simple - writing a basic synopsis of the story. What I mean by synopsis is not unlike when you look up a book/movie/play on wikipedia or sparknotes or whatever and see the plot basically told from beginning to end. My version of this would be a bit longer (because I want it to have all of the plot info, even small things if they are important) and broken out by chapter. This then becomes the breadcrumb trail to follow, while otherwise 'pantsing' the story.

    I don't believe in outlining characters. I think characters should develop organically within the story. A good character should be memorable enough anyway. If you must outline a character, keep it simple and focus on the aspects of them that are factual (i.e problematic if they are forgotten) such as their age, gender, nationality, eye color, etc. But writing essay-length profiles on characters seems to me entirely daft.
    "If you don't like my peaches, don't shake my tree."

    "Perhaps I write for no one. Perhaps for the same person children are writing for when they scrawl their names in the snow."

  6. #6
    Understanding beat sheets can help the pacing of your story, as well as outlining the plot by three-act structures. I tend to write an outline with which is loose. It gives me a direction to work in but as I write, my story and characters develop and as I'm not tied down to the outline too strongly, I am able to edit and rewrite the outline with a stronger idea of the story in mind.

  7. #7
    Member Rojack79's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by luckyscars View Post
    If you must outline a character, keep it simple and focus on the aspects of them that are factual (i.e problematic if they are forgotten) such as their age, gender, nationality, eye color, etc. But writing essay-length profiles on characters seems to me entirely daft.
    Honestly I think the only characters I would even make an essay length profile for are the villains. There so many complexities about my villains that it became hard to keep track of each one. I don't want my villains to fall into the stereotypes of being evil just for the sake of being evil. For example of I have a tyrannical evil overlord there going to be a valid (at least in his mind) reason for them to be the way they are. One villain go's evil because he wants his wife back from the dead. The only way to do so In this universe is through Necromancey and that stuff is dangerous and likes to corrupt people over time.

    Also the beat sheet.. I think I've seen one of those back in high school. I don't think it was called a beat sheet though. I'll still look into it seeing as it sounds very useful to writing.
    This might not be my best work but that just means there's room to improve.

    I don't have a big ego. You just can't comprehend my greatness!

  8. #8
    I'd like to try it one day, but at the same time I feel like it would be like painting a paint-by-numbers picture.

    At the same time, it would be my "paint-by-numbers" design wouldn't it?


    I have a vague idea in my head about how the story will go, then maybe as it proceeds I might sketc hout a chapter or two ahead to kind of create a road map, I may even have a vague idea how it will end, but I don't know how to outline from page one to page 300 chapter by chapter, scene by scene.

  9. #9
    Member Rojack79's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MichelD View Post
    but I don't know how to outline from page one to page 300 chapter by chapter, scene by scene.


    I wont even be doing a page by page one thankfully. Just chapter by chapter for me.
    This might not be my best work but that just means there's room to improve.

    I don't have a big ego. You just can't comprehend my greatness!

  10. #10
    I wrote a book once where I wrote down a description of every scene in order, about a paragraph each so I knew what points to make before the scene was over.

    The upside of this was that as I wrote, I had everything laid out so I could just write and write and write until I ran out of paper (twas on an O-S word processor). Everything was set, I just had to write it. Awesome!

    The downside was that I could very well have become stalled on that outline. I have seen lots of writers spin their wheels on outlines for years. They have great record keeping systems, their world building skills are paramount, but they never write a damned word. Just keep planning and plotting. Also, that was a huge amount of work that only an OCD weirdo would think of doing. Seriously, the outline was twenty typed pages long!


    And that book sold like absolute bat guano.

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