Do you prefer writing an outline or letting the story tell itself? - Page 2


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Thread: Do you prefer writing an outline or letting the story tell itself?

  1. #11
    I would say it's a combination of both. I start out with an outline, and then as I write it, the story starts to reveal itself, but I needed an outline to get there, as oppose to starting from scratch. I feel the story would probably pretty random if you do that.

  2. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by ironpony View Post
    I would say it's a combination of both. I start out with an outline, and then as I write it, the story starts to reveal itself, but I needed an outline to get there, as oppose to starting from scratch. I feel the story would probably pretty random if you do that.
    I myself will do maybe 3 chapter outlines but not many more. The way that my writing goes, I'll end up doing changes even midchapter so by doing less chapters, I feel it does give more of flexibility to work with as the story progresses.

  3. #13
    Outlines.

    Journey, change, theme, arc, craft etc... these are not things of chance.

  4. #14
    I make outlines for my novels before I begin writing them and continue to update them as I write. My outlines have a lot of information about all main characters (appearance, personality, strengths and weaknesses, etc) and secondary characters, the names of all other needed figures, major plot points per chapter, reason for characters to do what they do, what growth I want the characters to have by the end of the novel.
    I too like to outline my story and character development on a overall and chapter by chapter basis. I plan one to two main events that will occur in each chapter, but I come up with the random details and events as I write. For instance a chapters main event could be travelling from one city to another (outlined), but along the way they encounter bandits pillaging a family farm (not outlined). How many bandits, the number of family members, how the bandits are stopped, does anyone die, are all spur of the moment decisions. I think of outlining as the meat and potatoes of the story and everything you write that's unplanned as the spice.
    K.S. Crooks- Dreamer and Author

  5. #15
    In the screenplay I am getting feedback on now, one of the critiques is that I have come up with my ending first, and then worked my way backwards to build into it. But I thought this is what you had to do, to get to the ending you want, and I read that's how it is done in a screenwriting book. But I am told by readers, that by doing that, I put the cart before the horse, and I must write it a lot more from the beginning, then I decide the ending. So if that's true, perhaps letting the story reveal itself is the way to go?

  6. #16
    Quote Originally Posted by ironpony View Post
    In the screenplay I am getting feedback on now, one of the critiques is that I have come up with my ending first, and then worked my way backwards to build into it. But I thought this is what you had to do, to get to the ending you want, and I read that's how it is done in a screenwriting book. But I am told by readers, that by doing that, I put the cart before the horse, and I must write it a lot more from the beginning, then I decide the ending. So if that's true, perhaps letting the story reveal itself is the way to go?
    A lot of stories are written with the ending established first. Plenty of websites and blogs actually advocate doing exactly that. Personally, I usually have 'some idea' how I want my stories to end, even if it isn't totally fixed.

    Some books and movies even literally begin either in or near the ending with the story told in a kind of flashback - 'in media res'.
    "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."

  7. #17
    Yeah, I guess the trick is to make it so it doesn't seem so totally fixed, to the reader.

  8. #18

  9. #19
    Quote Originally Posted by Zero Hour View Post
    Perhaps the one thing that I've had the most dramatically different experience is when I've writing using written outlines opposed to letting the story tell itself.

    Story Tells Itself:

    One thing I noticed about this style of writing is that the story is far more surprising. I'll have a general idea of what will happen but as I don't restrict it, it shoots every direction. Thus how I went from wanting to do a fantasy trilogy to finishing book 4 and realizing I need at least two more books to finish it. Helping me understand GRRM.

    Written Outline:

    In this same fantasy series, I decided to do my fourth book with an outline. Not only a general outline but also chapter outlines.

    I noticed that I got a lot more done at a far faster pace. I also ended up having a far larger book. It was as if with the mental work of plottibg was done on a chapter before hand, it allowed me to spend that energy strictly on developing the scenes.

    One chapter had only five bullet points. I thought it would only take 10 pages. To my shock, it up being near 45 pages of work over a three day period!

    Which is your preferred method of writing? With an outline or letting the story tell itself?


    What you are talking about here is really Pantsing versus Plotting, and it is one of the most common questions in writing forums.

    Pantsing, or writing by the seat of your pants, is closer to stream of consciousness writing. You just sit down with a general idea and start writing. The upside is that it is a very free way to write. The downside is that you risk painting yourself into a corner.

    Plotting means sitting down and writing an outline, or maybe a timeline, or even a scene-by-scene outline. The upside to this is that you are rarely stumped for what to do in your next scene. The downside is that the project often dies in the plotting stage (you simply get bored, or get so wrapped up in the planning that you never actually pull the trigger.)

    Personally I believe that an experienced writer should be comfortable with either method. Really it is the book that determines if it needs to be pantsed or plotted.

    But here are some of the crazy things that I have had to do when plotting a book.
    1) Scene by scene outline. I'd write a paragraph for each scene, stating what was to happen, and the minimum goals of that scene (what HAD to be accomplished in that scene.)
    2) Lots of times I just write a line or two about scenes I want in the book (in addition to the outline in my head.) I put these at the bottom of the document and as I write each, I remove them from the list.
    3) Complete chronological timeline. This was something I had to do for a series of books that occupied the same span of time. In order for them to mesh, I had to use timelines from each book to create a master for the next book.
    Here is one of those timelines:


    4) Spreadsheet: Essentially I had a brief detail of scenes, and another spreadsheet for characters, and another for research. The downside to this is that I got good at records keeping, but got little writing done. The outline overtook the project.

  10. #20
    I found that with pansing I paint myself into corners more often, but also I feel that the theme can get long, if you don't know what direction to take it in as a result, of not knowing the ending in advance.

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