A question for outliners

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casnow
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A question for outliners

Post by casnow » December 10th, 2009, 6:42 am

There was another Forum post on outlining vs. out of the misting, and I do a combo of both (and do them both poorly!). However, I have a couple of questions for you hard core ouliners.
(1) How long do you normally take to write a detailed outline? A day? A week? A month?
(2) For (example) an 80k word novel, how long is your typical outline?
(3) Do you detail conversations, actions, etc?

I sometimes think I would be far more efficient I outlined, and took my time doing it - the times I try I normally do a quick and dirty outline in a couple of hours, but it is really just more of a brain dump.

If anyone would be willing to share an example outline that they use I would love to see it.

Thanks,

Cam

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Scott
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Re: A question for outliners

Post by Scott » December 10th, 2009, 9:15 am

That's a tricky question, because I jot down ideas and notes about plot points and characters for extended periods of time across a number of projects. When I sit down to write, it's usually to a short synopsis with a bunch of notes that I add to as I go.

If I read your question correctly, you're trying to do your MS step-by-step and want some info on the outline part of it. Perhaps it would help to think of an outline as a loose guide written in the sand that can be added to or changed as the story and characters become richer and more alive. I'd advise starting simple by breaking it down into three acts: beginning, middle and end. Have an idea where you'd like to go and where you think it should end up in order to best tell your story and get across your themes. Then start peeling the onion from the beginning.

Some like to pick a scene anywhere in the book and begin there. If you're having trouble knowing where to go in your loose outline, try something like that. One scene can often open so many doors in your story.

Hope I've helped a little.

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Re: A question for outliners

Post by shadow » December 10th, 2009, 10:09 am

I don't really outline like I had said before, but I summarize the next chapters short form so I know where I am going. When I get more ideas I pop them in. To write a chapter outline for my 90,000 novel it took me a couple hrs.
All things writing, visit my blog http://arielemerald.blogspot.com/

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SmurfHead
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Re: A question for outliners

Post by SmurfHead » December 10th, 2009, 12:06 pm

(1) How long do you normally take to write a detailed outline? A day? A week? A month?
It depends on how you look at it, I guess. From the time that a story is percolating in my brain to the time I finish the outline, it could be a month or so. But actually writing the outline is usually about a week of frantic typing.

(2) For (example) an 80k word novel, how long is your typical outline?
For my next WIP, I'm going for around 55k, and the outline I have for it is about two pages (double-spaced). But I'm not hugely detailed when it comes to outlines, which leads me to...

(3) Do you detail conversations, actions, etc?
Kind of. I have ideas about certain scenes, and I have a pretty good grasp of what things need to be said and done within them. But I don't like to plan too much beyond the bare bones. I've tried doing it the other way (figuring out EXACTLY what will happen in a conversation) but I felt like I was forcing the characters to do things, instead of simply writing about them.

I use the four-act structure and write out the main plot points, which gives me kind of an idea of how I want to arrange chapters. Mostly, though, when I'm in the first draft, I prefer to think of everything in terms of sequences. While I'm writing the outline, I'm also doing a little bit of character development. Nothing big, just a few jotted qualities that have popped into my head. The most extensive thing I do is to try and write a little summary of the plot from that particular character's viewpoint, if they undergo a lot of change. I could get a little deeper, but really I just want to get a sense of the character and figure out their motivations throughout the story.

This is such a fun thread! I love seeing how other people outline.
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Re: A question for outliners

Post by Joel Q » December 10th, 2009, 12:25 pm

I do a little of both.

It is kind of like taking points A to Z and removing half of the points in no particular order.
Example: I know the character/plot is at point C and I know what will be at point F. I just have to figure out how to get there, thats the misty part.

I make notes, and small lists of events, actions or dialogue for the points that I do know. Which helps guide me.

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Re: A question for outliners

Post by kelly.morgan » December 10th, 2009, 1:25 pm

There was another Forum post on outlining vs. out of the misting, and I do a combo of both (and do them both poorly!). However, I have a couple of questions for you hard core ouliners.
(1) How long do you normally take to write a detailed outline? A day? A week? A month?

The outline for my current wip took about a month. The fastest I've outlined took 2 days for a short story.

(2) For (example) an 80k word novel, how long is your typical outline?

I hand write my outlines first and keep them in a notebook for that story. Current wip outline is 2 sides of a page per scene. It's big.

(3) Do you detail conversations, actions, etc?

I don't detail conversations or actions. I lay out bare bones setting and ideas of how the characters should feel or react in the scene. When I'm writing, I can tell the scene or two before when I have to revise the outline because the protagonist decided to do something I hadn't planned on.

I sometimes think I would be far more efficient I outlined, and took my time doing it - the times I try I normally do a quick and dirty outline in a couple of hours, but it is really just more of a brain dump.

If anyone would be willing to share an example outline that they use I would love to see it.

The opening scene for my wip is outlined like so:

Scene Information: What scene. I like to number them so I can shuffle them around on the story board.

Setting: Location, time period, time of day, weather, anything interesting that will come into play setting wise.

Who: Any character (even bystanders) who will be in the scene.

Character: Who is the focal point in the scene and why. This could be the POV character or it could be the character the POV character is focusing on. In this section, I also outline intentions of the characters, motivations, how they fit into the plot or subplot.

What: This is for what needs to happen in the scene. Detailed. Start from the beginning and go to the end of the scene.

Why: This section tells me why events are occurring in the scene. This is helpful when things need to be hidden still but hints need to be dropped.

Plot Intentions: POV character's immediate needs, what complications interfere with the fulfillment of those needs, and how the complication is resolved (are needs met, delayed, changed, etc...)

POV: I write a lot in 3rd limited but in wip I have three important characters and they need to be 'heard'. That's why this is here.

My character bios are done separately but I do include them in the outlining time. I do the same for the preliminary research which I add when revising.

The above is just my process. Hope it helps.

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Re: A question for outliners

Post by Mary E. Ulrich » December 10th, 2009, 6:54 pm

I've been excited about Larry Brook's ideas about "Story Structure." His blog storyfix.com has some great stuff in the archives. I like his new ebook which includes a basic outline format with explanations. The outline works for both books and movie scripts.

Check it out.

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ElisabethMoore
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Re: A question for outliners

Post by ElisabethMoore » December 10th, 2009, 7:07 pm

I am still feeling out how I want to outline. There are a number of methods detailed on various websites that I have collected.

The most detailed methods I have seen online are:
Lazette's phase outline, explained in her free NaNo Book http://www.lazette.net/ (book link is bottom of first screen toward the middle)
The Snowflake method: http://www.advancedfictionwriting.com/art/snowflake.php -- This would take at least three weeks to a month as written.

Less detailed method:
Holly Lisle's Notecard Method: http://hollylisle.com/fm/Workshops/note ... tting.html -- This could be done within one day.

Good luck settling on a method that works for you!

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Re: A question for outliners

Post by Ermo » December 11th, 2009, 11:42 am

I do a variation on the snowflake method. I usually give myself about a week or so to really flesh out the entire outline. The purpose for me is to determine if there is really a story to be written from the idea. I have a lot of ideas and I can tell pretty quickly if there is a workable plot from the idea by doing an outline. First, I'll write a short summary - like book jacket copy. Then, I'll outline each of the main characters, their motivations, their personal plot lines, etc. Then I'll outline the main plot and each of the sub-plots. Finally, I write a rough outline for each chapter - no more than 75 words or so - where I get the idea of where the story is going, when the plot twists come in, where the sub-plots resolve themselves, etc. It's a living document that changes as the book progresses and it has become a wonderful reference tool as I write.

casnow
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Re: A question for outliners

Post by casnow » December 13th, 2009, 4:01 am

Thanks for the answers. I've been just "out of the misting", however, with two things that I'm currently working on (1 project that I've shelved now in favor of writing one and editing another) I've found that I'm running into some problems focusing. In one of the works I came up with an idea that I liked, but never could figure out how i was going to end the thing, and now I'm letting it sit for a while (about 15k words in - I decided it better to let myself think about it before I got 40k words in and realized I have nothing).
On the other one, I'm about 22k words into it, and I think I've done a good job up to the point of establishing the protagonists, antagonist, and some of the supporting characters, and setting up the backstory, and I'm making good progress on fleshing out the ideas that I've already gotten down on paper (which will probably get me to about the climax), but as of the moment I'm not sure which road I want to take after that...

So, you can see my problem and why I think that outlining will make me more proficient in my story telling. I think my science background is actually getting in the way of my writing - formulating hypotheses and conducting experiments are a lot like setting up the backstory/characters/ reaching climax, but in science the outcome gets determined by the data... sadly, there's no data for writing!

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Re: A question for outliners

Post by Kaitlyne » December 13th, 2009, 7:03 am

My file of notes for my last novel was about fifty pages long. It was divided into different sections, with about thirty of that being straight plot. It was written in actual outline form and basically detailed what action should happen in what order. I also included a section of unanswered questions relevant to said plot and then worked my way through answering them.

Once I get serious about my outline, I always include character summaries as well. The last novel just had some random facts about the characters for my benefit. The notes for my current one include character descriptions written in the voice of the MC as well (it's first-person and he has a very distinctive voice). Otherwise yeah, I include random quotes and dialogues for scenes I don't want to forget, research and links to websites and what not so I can go back and do more research later if I need to, etc.

I used to work without an outline and basically wrote what I called plotless novels. Yes, there was a plot, but it wasn't particularly defined and I never had a good idea of what was going on until I got there. It might take me a month to finish the outline, etc. but once I do I have a much better idea of where the story is going and who the characters are, which has made writing insanely easier.

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a_r_williams
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Re: A question for outliners

Post by a_r_williams » December 13th, 2009, 8:53 am

There are a couple of good books that deal with outlining novels.

First Draft in 30 Days by Karen S. Wiesner

The Marshall Plan by Evan Marshall

Aimée
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Re: A question for outliners

Post by Aimée » December 17th, 2009, 10:16 pm

My outline is always changing as I write. I don't just sit down and write an outline of my story; I write down all the ideas I have for the story, notes about the characters, and info on setting and quotes and such. It starts out as the broad idea and narrows down and gets more detailed as I figure it out. Once I have a general enough outline (a beginning, middle, and end, description of all my characters and settings, the general plot of what happens in the correct order) then I really get my story started. I always start writing before my outline is done because I'm always getting new ideas. My outlines are not so much as a plan for my writing, how the story is going to work itself out, but my outlines are more like flexible guides and are never set in stone.
The problem is, with time it takes to write an outline, it really varies. Since I write my outline and story pretty much at the same time (so I guess they are really just to keep track of everything going on so I don't have to scroll through dozens of pages to find a section) I usually get distracted or lazy, and if I don't feel like writing, I just work on the outline. After doing this so much, I've been thinking lately that I should just get rid of the detailed outline and just have a broad thing, one page tops, that tells me how the story is organized so I don't lose important information.
So, like I was saying, for me it takes as long as it takes to write a story to write an outline because I do them simultaneously. Maybe I should stop outlining and just get to writing. Outlining is addicting and compulsive; I always feel like I have to add what I just wrote in the story to my outline, so I guess I don't recommend outlining if you are going to do it my way. :)

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