Outline or Out of the Mist?

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Terry Towery
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Re: Outline or Out of the Mist?

Post by Terry Towery » December 9th, 2009, 8:32 pm

I guess I've evolved into an out-of-the-mist writer, although while writing my first novel (currently in revision), I wanted to outline it. I ended up writing about 20 outlines during the two years it took me to write the mss. Each time the story veered off into uncharted territory, I would panic and re-do the outline. I think I pretty much filled an entire legal pad. My wife thought I was losing my mind. In hindsight, I tend to agree.

On my current wip, the story came to me fully formed while I was in bed with a fever. I jumped up, grabbed a notebook and wrote out a short version of the story (a synopsis if you will) and just started hammering away at it. Naturally, it's veering a bit, but this time I don't feel compelled to re-do the synopsis each time it does. In other words, I know where the story is going, so I'm just enjoying the journey.

Terry

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ElisabethMoore
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Re: Outline or Out of the Mist?

Post by ElisabethMoore » December 9th, 2009, 9:18 pm

I am starting to work on my third novel. The first I outlined a little, then deviated from the outline, then reworked the outline... I only wrote about half of it, but have a detailed outline for the rest. I will revisit it at a (much, much) later time (if ever). My second project was completely out of the mist. It is complete, and I have a file in which I am collecting revision noted for it, but it is going to need a lot of work. I learned a lot from both projects, but only have definite plans and a time frame to revise the second into something I will eventually let someone else read. I am trying out the snowflake method for my third attempt, and am just in the beginning outlining stages.

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John Ross Harvey
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Re: Outline or Out of the Mist?

Post by John Ross Harvey » December 10th, 2009, 3:25 pm

I would have to say out of the mist. 2 of my rom coms I scribbled ideas down, then expanded. The other novels I'm writing, or have written (3 rom coms, 1 political intrigue) were pretty much on the fly. My brain knows where I'm going, even without writing it down. Yes the 2 romcoms went faster with a scribbled outline, but that doesn't mean they are better and more complete, even if they are, they were just quicker. Did I mention I never thought about writing this genre at all? I just suddenly threw some ideas down, potential movie concepts, and rom com was suddenly so obvious I had to try it, and its almost a breeze to write, which I never expected. My real goal was scifi, after all I'm probably the biggest Arthur C. Clarke fan ever, but its so hard to invent aliens that sound believable. Maybe that's why I like Clarke and Orson Scott Card so much, because their scifi mostly involve the humans, not the aliens. Hopefully my scifi manuscript can measure up.
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Sandra Jensen
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Re: Outline or Out of the Mist?

Post by Sandra Jensen » December 10th, 2009, 4:27 pm

I like what David Byles and Ted Orland have to say (in Art and Fear - Observations On the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking):
Uncertainty is the essential, inevitable and all pervasive companion to your desire to make art. Tolerance for uncertainty is a prerequisite for succeeding.
I write what is called Freefall -- a process originally taught by W.O. Mitchell and later version by Barbara Turner-Vesselago. I had always struggled with 'what to write' until I spent time with Barbara, and I've never looked back. Basically you do not plan. You write what comes up. You go 'fearward'. You get in really close and tight with details, and you don't edit while you write. I've seen this method produce some of the most extraordinary writing from people who have very little experience of 'creative writing'; and for me it has produced 20 short stories (several published) two novels and a novella (all three in first draft).

The more I know what is going to happen in a story, the less exciting it is for me to write. I do often write with an image in mind, something to steer towards or to begin with, but lightly. Some of my work is closely inspired by actual (and sometimes autobiographical) events, but even here, when I write a scene, I throw away what I think I know happens, or how it happens. I try to let details and sensations and feeling arise as if completely fresh. This is the only way I can keep myself engaged and challenged and excited by the process: to dive into a world I think I know, and to discover it anew, or to dive into a totally new world, discovering it as I go along. Outline and structure seem to coalesce in the process. As I'm writing I keep a kind of 'larger eye' open for patterns and rhythms in the work, for what the story is 'about', and so long as I don't direct traffic too much, characters and events 'arise' to support the work as a whole. Or so it seems to me!

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Re: Outline or Out of the Mist?

Post by Nick » December 10th, 2009, 6:11 pm

I'm a little of both. My ideas just come to me, but a lot of times they're ideas for much later in the story, or just small snippets of notes on a character. I never write them down, though, until it's time for their place in the story, if they even appear in the story. If I think of it, it is always catalogued in the archives of my mind, and especially if it's for my current WIP or an idea for a follow-up/sequel/etc. it's always dancing around right at the boundary between back of the mind and full thought. The moment I write it down, it goes poof. It's why many times in my WIP I have to backtrack and check things -- just a few moments ago I forgot the surname of a major character. Now, I don't forget everything I write down, and the protagonist(s) stay fresh in my mind, but like in the case of that other character, he's only pertinent to this particular story, and so my mind tends to forget everything I've put down on him except for what is important to what I will put down later, which right now just consists of "not the murderer". So it's kind of out of the mist initially, and then I do a mental outlining of things as I go along. I also tend to have a big whole in the middle. How the story opens, I don't always know right away, but I have everything that leads up to the main of the narrative in mind before I've finished writing it. Rough details of the ending, I have in mind, and in some cases something somewhat specific, but I never have my ending fully mapped out. And the middle is just one big blank slate to scribble in whatever direction my mind decides will ultimately lead us to whatever inkling of an end I have going on. I find it makes writing more fun that way, never knowing what's going to happen to your characters.

TinaChaulk
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Re: Outline or Out of the Mist?

Post by TinaChaulk » December 11th, 2009, 12:45 pm

Out of the mist. I love when a story I'm writing takes a turn I never expected or when I sit down to write and really don't know what will happen next until it appears, out of the pen and onto paper. Sometimes, though, I do think I know where things might go but don't know if, or how, they will ever get there.

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