Recent Experiment with Outlining


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Thread: Recent Experiment with Outlining

  1. #1

    Recent Experiment with Outlining

    I'm working on a new book right now. I spent the last month outlining it, using a combination of "Anatomy of Story" and "Save the Cat." When I was finished, I had completed 6 drafts of the complete scene list with 99 entries, had character sheets, and adapted a story bible from a previous novelette to use on this. I felt ready to go.

    And I was. In two days / 5 hours of writing, I knocked out about 4100 words to complete the first chapter, and I like how it turned out a lot. With all this prep work done, I started knocking out word counts, fast.

    However

    When I got started I realized I had two side characters that were really better off as one character, and that that character had more agency than I thought they did, and that they would be a natural enemy of another view point character. They became fairly compelling in the first chapter, and now I feel like I can't write any other second chapter than what happens from their perspective.

    So now I'm sitting in a coffee shop, writing up a new character and seeing if I can adapt my outline with all this new information.

    Still, I'm glad I did the prep, because the outlining process was so creative that the story I started writing was much, much better and very different than what I had at my first outline. Even though this new story may end up being fairly different, it is so much better than what I would have had if I just went with the initial version.

    Ta da.

  2. #2
    Outlines are meant to be fluid. If something changes, then it percolates down through the rest of the story. Adjust your outline and keep going.

  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by Cephus View Post
    Outlines are meant to be fluid. If something changes, then it percolates down through the rest of the story. Adjust your outline and keep going.
    Exactly.
    I plot like crazy before I start writing, but as I write characters can sometimes act out on their own and often new ones come on stage and I have to figure out why they are there. Just take notes about possible changes to what you’ve already written, and be prepared to add them into your outline of chapters going forward. For me, these changes are never too severe, and in the end the book turns out better with their inclusion.
    Also, when complete it’s helped me to do a review of my process to determine what worked and what didn’t. I use that going forward to my next project.

  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by JohnCalliganWrites View Post
    I'm working on a new book right now. I spent the last month outlining it, using a combination of "Anatomy of Story" and "Save the Cat." When I was finished, I had completed 6 drafts of the complete scene list with 99 entries, had character sheets, and adapted a story bible from a previous novelette to use on this. I felt ready to go.

    And I was. In two days / 5 hours of writing, I knocked out about 4100 words to complete the first chapter, and I like how it turned out a lot. With all this prep work done, I started knocking out word counts, fast.

    However

    When I got started I realized I had two side characters that were really better off as one character, and that that character had more agency than I thought they did, and that they would be a natural enemy of another view point character. They became fairly compelling in the first chapter, and now I feel like I can't write any other second chapter than what happens from their perspective.

    So now I'm sitting in a coffee shop, writing up a new character and seeing if I can adapt my outline with all this new information.

    Still, I'm glad I did the prep, because the outlining process was so creative that the story I started writing was much, much better and very different than what I had at my first outline. Even though this new story may end up being fairly different, it is so much better than what I would have had if I just went with the initial version.

    Ta da.


    LOL. BTDT!
    Yep, characters will hijack your story. But really it's a good thing because it means that you have developed them enough for them to come alive. Flat characters tend to be obedient, but realistic characters will steer your story.
    This is exactly why I keep my outlines loose; to leave room for expansion.
    It's like I always say; you really don't know your characters until you have written those first hundred pages.
    They come alive under your pen.

  5. #5
    Here is a screenshot of my 2B Written list.
    I keep lists of scenes I wanna write floating just below the text I am writing.
    As I write a scene, I delete it from the 2B list.
    I try to be very general in the layout so that the story can grow.


  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by indianroads View Post
    Exactly.
    I plot like crazy before I start writing, but as I write characters can sometimes act out on their own and often new ones come on stage and I have to figure out why they are there. Just take notes about possible changes to what you’ve already written, and be prepared to add them into your outline of chapters going forward. For me, these changes are never too severe, and in the end the book turns out better with their inclusion.
    Also, when complete it’s helped me to do a review of my process to determine what worked and what didn’t. I use that going forward to my next project.
    I completely plot before I write and while there are always some minor changes along the way, it's been a long time since I've just gone off the rails and done something entirely unexpected. The last time it happened, when I realized at the end that one of the main characters had to betray the rest, I went back through the rest of the book and realized I'd already subconsciously laid the framework for the betrayal. Subconsciously, I knew it had to happen all along.

  7. #7
    I like the idea of doing full, detailed plots at the outset but in practice I find it tricky to do and like the flexibility that comes with a less dictated approach. I tend to start writing with an idea of the basic premises/ideas I want to include in the story along with an idea of how I want it to end, then tend to work out the finer details as I go along (I think of it as knowing how a jigsaw puzzle is supposed to look, and then just working out how to get the pieces to turn into that).

    Ultimately, whatever works for you is all that matters!

  8. #8
    It might help with creating sympathy for the character, and might even make your plot more tightly structured. Of course that's the positive. I might try it. I own save the cat the book but never bothered to put it into practice. I remember I bookmarked a website that summarized anatomy of a story's system. Needless to say it is worth trying. I have heard that planning with outlines reveals characters more easily. I plan to do this more with short stories that don't work or have a hard time getting published.
    I would follow as in believe in the words of good moral leaders. Rather than the beliefs of oneself.
    The most difficult thing for a writer to comprehend is to experience silence, so speak up. (quoted from a member)

  9. #9
    I wrote a book once where I plotted every scene, and it did make the book faster to write, and kept it on course, but there was no room for the characters to grow.

    Since then my plotting techniques have simplified dramatically. Too much plotting can become the end-all of writing...and keep you from getting much writing done.

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by JohnCalliganWrites View Post
    I'm working on a new book right now. I spent the last month outlining it, using a combination of "Anatomy of Story" and "Save the Cat." When I was finished, I had completed 6 drafts of the complete scene list with 99 entries, had character sheets, and adapted a story bible from a previous novelette to use on this. I felt ready to go.

    And I was. In two days / 5 hours of writing, I knocked out about 4100 words to complete the first chapter, and I like how it turned out a lot. With all this prep work done, I started knocking out word counts, fast.

    However

    When I got started I realized I had two side characters that were really better off as one character, and that that character had more agency than I thought they did, and that they would be a natural enemy of another view point character. They became fairly compelling in the first chapter, and now I feel like I can't write any other second chapter than what happens from their perspective.

    So now I'm sitting in a coffee shop, writing up a new character and seeing if I can adapt my outline with all this new information.

    Still, I'm glad I did the prep, because the outlining process was so creative that the story I started writing was much, much better and very different than what I had at my first outline. Even though this new story may end up being fairly different, it is so much better than what I would have had if I just went with the initial version.

    Ta da.
    It actually feels like you might benefit from redrafting rather than outlining. Let me explain what I mean.

    If you are finding that the outline is propelling your story but that it doesn't necessarily work that well as an outline, perhaps rather than expending time and effort on an outline that doesn't really function as such, but rather is a kind of brainstorming exercise, my question is: Why not just write the story?

    The first draft of my current novel, finally at it's end, was basically that. It was crudely written, often directionless, but it did essentially do what you are saying your outline did...with the additional bonus that it also provided real copy that I used (and actually continued to snip bits from right to the end). It not only provided an 'outline', a template for the story (albeit one that had to be massively revamped) but it also was writing -- it was sufficient to create characters that did not then need changed very much, create a timeline and a basic scene map, create the bones of a story.

    If you wanted to (I didn't do this but I contemplated it) you could even reconstruct an outline following that first draft, safe in the knowledge that you have an actual story that isn't just a bunch of theory.

    I'm not here to preach against outlines, BTW. I am extremely weary of the whole 'plotting v pantsing' debate and don't give a terrapin's todger how people write -- I have outlined and I have not. I guess my main concern with the process you are describing is that you say you wrote 6 drafts of a scene list. That seems awfully inefficient. Do you think that was necessary just to get into the place you are now?
    "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."

    “Remember this: Dumbo didn’t need the feather; the magic was in him. ”

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