Outlining One Brick at a Time

The writing process, writing advice, and updates on your work in progress
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Joined: October 4th, 2010, 5:29 pm

Outlining One Brick at a Time

Post by m.a.leslie » October 4th, 2010, 5:31 pm

By M.A. Leslie

As a writer I find that I am a structured outliner like a builder with an architect’s plans I glide through the story that I have pre-told with roman numerals. I require the ideas to be finished and together before I even start the manuscript otherwise I often times find myself not finishing the work. When I was younger I attempted several different pieces of work but never once finished one. I knew what I wanted to say and how I wanted to say it, but without the solid foundation of an outline my building crumbled.
The older I got the more patient I became and I was able to sit down with the story line and write it out in simplistic outlined notes before the first line ever hit the paper.
I like to think of my outlines as a building:
Foundation: Characters – I build the characters in the body of the first section of the outline and find that some characters get more description than others. Don’t waste your time describing someone that makes a cameo and unimportant impression on the story, but don’t forget to put as much as you can in the details of your main characters. It is amazing what you forget when your mind is going on overdrive.
Framework: Locations – The next section is devoted to the locations that the characters are going to frequent. Here I add in details and description about the places that will be visited. Whether you are creating them in your mind or if you have been there before the place requires description.
Finishing: Chapters – Here is where the story truly lies. The plot unfolds and the characters that were created in your mind do what you are making them do. Each chapter is the start of a new outline bullet and as the outline grows so does the plot and strength of the story. The advantage of doing the outline first is that you can go back and make changes to the chapters as you go. The options are limitless. In this section you include the beginning, middle, and end of the story, the subplots and any other details that you want to remember as you embark on the lengthy journey of writing your manuscript.

I realize that some people out there are still the fly by the seat of their pants writers and I respect that, because I used to be one. However, I have found that building the story one brick at a time works for me now and I hope that it will help in your endeavors.

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Re: Outlining One Brick at a Time

Post by WritersBlockNZ » October 4th, 2010, 6:26 pm

I really, really tried to plan my last novel. It was a disaster and I found it too restricting. Characters and plot seem to write themselves, and even the locations turned out different than I imagined. I tend to plan the internal and external conflicts of my characters and let the rest 'emerge' as I write. I'm in awe of people who seem to be able to plan everything and make it work!
Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass. ~Anton Chekhov

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