Outline or Out of the Mist?

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marilyn peake
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Outline or Out of the Mist?

Post by marilyn peake » December 7th, 2009, 11:34 pm

What type of writer are you - do you outline beforehand, or does your story seem to arise out of the mist? I'm definitely an "out of the mist" type of writer, although I usually have a strong sense of where the story will generally lead and how it will end. I tried outlining, but found that too limiting. I've come to view novels and short stories as very similar to life: as events unfold, it affects the shape of future events and the characters involved.
Marilyn Peake

Novels: THE FISHERMAN’S SON TRILOGY and GODS IN THE MACHINE. Numerous short stories. Contributor to BOOK: THE SEQUEL. Editor of several additional books. Awards include Silver Award, 2007 ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year Awards.

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Re: Outline or Out of the Mist?

Post by kristi » December 7th, 2009, 11:46 pm

Marilyn - I'm with you on the Out of the Mist process. I didn't even know how my picture books would end when I started them and they're less than 1,000 words! However, I've consistently gotten great feedback about my endings. The story and ending tend to come as I write them and I love watching everything happen as the story unfolds. I will say that I'm only a third of the way through my second YA novel right now and the ending already came to me - but I don't know how I will get there yet. I've heard outlining works well for some though so I guess it depends on the writer and possibly on the type book being written.

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Re: Outline or Out of the Mist?

Post by taymalin » December 7th, 2009, 11:51 pm

I outline using "the Marshall Plan". Well, a modified version of the plan in any case. I used to write by the seat of my pants, but I found that it lead to too many false starts. I'd start a story and run out of gas part way through because I'd write myself into a corner I just couldn't find a way out of.

Outlining allows me to work out all the plot problems before I start writing. I prefer that because it means I can concentrate on bringing the characters to life instead of desperately trying to figure out what happens next.

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Re: Outline or Out of the Mist?

Post by Mira » December 7th, 2009, 11:54 pm

Me too. I'm out of the Mist. Definitely. It's abit scary to write that way; it requires alot of trust. I sort of wish I was an outline type of writer, but I'm not.

On the other hand, I work on stories over time. I had this one picture book that literally took me 10 years to finally conceptualize and write. I wrote drafts on and off for years, and then one year, it finally came together.

Sometimes it will finally come together in my head rather than on paper.

Anyway, interesting question, Marilyn. Thanks. :)

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Re: Outline or Out of the Mist?

Post by linguista » December 8th, 2009, 2:08 am

I've tried two types of outline.

The first Randy Ingermason's Snowflake method. You create a one-line summary of your story and expand and expand to make the outline. I did the early stages of this, but then I found as I got into more detailed outlining, that it was killing the desire to write the story.

The second type I tried was something called a Story Plan checklist. You basically write a plot summary, which includes the initial problem of the book. Then you list your main characters and their motivations, conflicts, skills, etc. I found this type of outline very useful. I could always look back at it when I'd forgotten a minor character's name, instead of having to search the document. And since I kept it in a Word doc, I could constantly update my characters files. I'm still an out of the mister though, because I don't start with too much detail, and I don't usually know how my book will end, when I start.

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Re: Outline or Out of the Mist?

Post by samdowning » December 8th, 2009, 3:38 am

I'm an outline kinda guy. I can't remember who came up with this analogy, but I liken my outline to a road map: I know where the stops and the final destination is, but I'm free to take detours if I please.

I'm terrified of writing out-of-the-mist. Solid respect for those who use this method, because I don't know how you do it!

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Re: Outline or Out of the Mist?

Post by casnow » December 8th, 2009, 7:53 am

I find that I'm no outline for the first 25k words, but as i start thinking about the story I add little notes below the text that looks something like this:

*Conversation about how to launder the money
*thinks they are being followed, dumps the cocaine
*Caught getting high by his uncle who's a cop

So it's like an out of the mist outline, where it's something that pops into my head that won't come along until much later in the novel, but it is a twist that I want it to take...

Just the way I do it though

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Re: Outline or Out of the Mist?

Post by Scott » December 8th, 2009, 8:38 am

I get a loose feeling for the whole book before I start and keep my mind open for surprises. I love those, because that's when the book starts writing itself.

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Re: Outline or Out of the Mist?

Post by Lorie » December 8th, 2009, 9:21 am

I'm with the out-of-misters and with the belief that you trust in your creativity and imagination and somehow things will come together.
I just had a marvelous revelation last night on my current WIP and if I had outlined in advance that never would have happened.
The absolute BEST, though, is when you allow your characters to figure out something at the same time you're figuring it out - total spontaneity.
The flip side of course is that while you're being out of the mist with your first draft and letting all those twists and turns take place you will have to eventually back track - well, I do at least - to leave notes-to-self on things like foreshadowing or to mention things earlier in the book that relate to what you've written later on. I already have paragraphs blocked in red earlier in the book where things have to be changed - but it's all good.

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Re: Outline or Out of the Mist?

Post by gilesth » December 8th, 2009, 9:32 am

I've tried the out-of-the-mist process, and it didn't work for me :) I like the idea of being able to shape the story in an outline before I "set it in stone" in the actual book. It's so much easier to edit that way, I've found. I actually talked about this in my blog, coincidentally. I love this topic because it really shows how many different, yet successful, writing styles are out there!

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Re: Outline or Out of the Mist?

Post by ScoRho » December 8th, 2009, 10:15 am

I outline, kind of. I write a story summary and work from that. I always end up falling off the plan, but it gives me something to go back to, a direction to move in, even when surprises happen in the story. Right now in my current WIP, I've diverged far enough that I'm wondering how I'll get back. But that's not a bad thing. I read somewhere that the cliches come out strongly in the outline and first draft, but as you write and revise, you become more original.

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Re: Outline or Out of the Mist?

Post by Reesha » December 8th, 2009, 10:23 am

I'm still trying to figure this out. I usually at least try to outline my story in the beginning. But then I end up diverging from it, inventing new characters and scenes, and the story comes out nothing like what it started as.

It's almost like I could start with the same exact plot every time and come out with a completely different story.

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Re: Outline or Out of the Mist?

Post by Phyllis » December 8th, 2009, 10:52 am

I keep a kind of outline journal. I start with the idea and form it into a very very raw outline. It contains a lot of sentences like: And then he goes somewhere (where?) and does something (whatever) that he can't tell her. And so on.

When I feel I know where to begin, I start writing. When I get stuck, I go back to the journal and brainstorm. I usually get stuck when I get an idea and instantly know it's bad. I can't get it out of my system if I don't write it down, so I write it into the journal. Then I write: That's so corny, this guy is supposed to be interesting. I mean he's this hip individualist and not a §$%&ing accountant. (I swear a lot in that journal.) Mostly, it helps, and better ideas appear.

It works on every level. From getting to the next plot point to fine-tuning dialog lines. And sometimes it makes for a fun reading after the story is finished.

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J Koyanagi
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Re: Outline or Out of the Mist?

Post by J Koyanagi » December 8th, 2009, 11:06 am

I'm an outliner. Knowing the major twists and turns of the novel gives me more breathing room to write well on the journey to the end.

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Re: Outline or Out of the Mist?

Post by polymath » December 8th, 2009, 11:30 am

I'm a sketch and treatment writer, combining loose outline scripting and out of the mist organic. "What's my motivation?" I ask for each character. "What's my complication?" "What's the point of the scene?" "What does it mean?" Coming soon, Twin Souls and the Soul Stealer.
Spread the love of written word.

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