How long is your outline?

The writing process, writing advice, and updates on your work in progress
Post Reply
xouba
Posts: 49
Joined: May 11th, 2010, 3:27 am
Contact:

How long is your outline?

Post by xouba » May 22nd, 2010, 8:16 am

I'm trying to outline a story. I'd never really tried to do it, and I'm finding two things:
- It's harder than I thought (mostly because you have to think about the whole plot, and I'm more an "situational" writer)
- The outline is becoming quite long

So, how long is your outline, usually? Several pages? One paragraph? How much detail do you pour in it?

Thanks in advance.

User avatar
polymath
Posts: 1821
Joined: December 8th, 2009, 11:22 am
Location: Babel
Contact:

Re: How long is your outline?

Post by polymath » May 22nd, 2010, 9:23 am

My outlines are brief sketches of discoveries and reversals. I include main plot benchmarks detailing the introductory scene, three crisis scenes, three rising and three falling action scenes, and the resolution scene, and their relevant import for building tension. About one paragraph for each, maybe a page or two. I also keep a notes file for character and setting details and other inspirations that crop up. That can be several pages by the time I start drafting, and grows as I proceed.

Basic boilerplate of my outlines;
Introductory scene
Inciting crisis scene
Rising action scene
Rising action scene
Rising action scene
Tragic crisis scene
Falling action scene
Falling action scene
Falling action scene
Resolving crisis scene
Resolution scene
Spread the love of written word.

xouba
Posts: 49
Joined: May 11th, 2010, 3:27 am
Contact:

Re: How long is your outline?

Post by xouba » May 22nd, 2010, 2:22 pm

polymath wrote: Basic boilerplate of my outlines;
Wow. You have it all worked out :-) How many books have you written using this "formula"? Did it evolve along the years, or did you consciously elaborate it from the start?

Thanks!

User avatar
polymath
Posts: 1821
Joined: December 8th, 2009, 11:22 am
Location: Babel
Contact:

Re: How long is your outline?

Post by polymath » May 22nd, 2010, 2:57 pm

Many, many organic false starts over the years that went nowhere, long and short fiction, before I developed a rudimentary outlining technique that worked for me. That was five years ago and resulted in my first fully realized short story. I've honed it down to a science since then. By and large, outlining helps me evaluate whether I've got a workable story. If parts are missing or if the parts don't meaningfully connect, I go back to the drawing board and study up on what I'm missing in technique and inspiration. I've tapped the study well pretty deeply. It hasn't run dry yet.

I've also been figuring out what it is about my native writing voice that some readers find appealing and others find alienating. Participating in writing discussion forums have let me explore my voice's nuances and develop solutions. The answer isn't comforting but I can get a thumb under it.

In addition to a basic plot outline--a skeletal superstructure of events--and character and setting trait and personality sketches, I find having a basic theme and a generic message important for the sake of unity of the parts and the whole. Another principle that I find very important, keeping outcomes in doubt until a bitter end.

My prewriting process stays loose and organic. Lest I should give an impression it's a rigidly organized process, it's not. I believe creativity will suffer if I'm inflexible.

I've published a few nonfiction odds and ends here and there off the beaten track. I'm just beginning to have confidence in my fiction writing. I've submitted fiction odds and ends here and there, also ran in contests, a few honorable mentions, and some encouraging rejections to test the waters, but have been holding back while I get where I want to be. I'm out of the tunnel and tasting daylight.
Spread the love of written word.

SXBrase
Posts: 12
Joined: February 3rd, 2010, 7:25 pm
Location: Northern Virginia
Contact:

Re: How long is your outline?

Post by SXBrase » May 22nd, 2010, 6:39 pm

I'm still in the process of refining my outline methods. When I wrote my first novel last year, I utilized an outline for the first time and found it quite useful. I kept it pretty bare bones, as I like to improvise as I go along. But the major actions were listed, both from a plot perspective and character perspective. That is, I listed when I wanted certain dramatic action to occur and when I wanted certain characters to realize things. Beyond that, I noted where characters would be geographically and kept it at that.

It worked for that novel pretty well, but as I gear up for my second novel, I might have to use a more elaborate outline, as the character development is going to be more intense and thus will require more bullet points.

As for short stories, I keep my outlines pretty stream-of-consciousness. Basic ideas of what I want to occur, any notes about structure. But mostly I just make comments about what I want to achieve and then set to writing.

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Google [Bot] and 17 guests