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Old 10-08-2012, 08:03 PM   #16
VydorScope
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For some reason, it seems like all people outline think that everyone else has to outline. Misery loves company perhaps?

I have not outlined for any book, any genre, fiction, nonfiction, etc. It does not work for me. Period. Not loose, not mind maping, no version there of. When doing formal engagements that require it, I build the outline after work is complete. I am not alone in this as many have pointed out. Successful authors like Steven King are doing fine without ever planing anything.

So if outlining is how you work, great! Do it. If not, great! Do not do it. Something else in the middle? Great! Do that!

Its really that easy
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Old 10-09-2012, 04:40 AM   #17
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I think everyone does outline a little bit. Even if they don't make a chapter by chapter listing of what happens as the story progresses they have to have some vague idea of who and what the story is about. A Kindle book I just bought from Amazon the other day for example mentions GMC as one of the things you have to take into account in order to have a functional story. G = goal M=motivation and C= conflict. Basically the author was saying that unless the characters have a clear goal, a clear reason for wanting to reach that goal, and conflict in that they can't just reach their goal then your story lacks focus and will flop around not going anywhere. I think in that sense everyone outlines (even if on an unconscience level). Take "The Wizard of Oz" for example. Dorothy has a goal (to get home), a motivation (she thinks Aunt Em is sick) and a conflict (the wicked witch is after her). If any one of those three points were missing or not properly defined L. Frank Baum's 1st Oz book would have sunk without a trace upon its initial publication.
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Old 10-09-2012, 07:38 AM   #18
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I have to add my voice to VydorScope's on this matter. Sometimes writing happens (for those that work this way) without even the vaguest outline, sometimes it's a matter of seeing where the characters that sit in your head decide to go - as you write.

The first novel in the series I am writing started with just an initial scene: two women watching a man grieving. It appeared in my head one night, I have no idea where the image came from. I had no idea who they were, I wasn't even clear on the source of the grief, although that part came quickly. I simply started writing to find out what happened (as strange as that may seem). The ideas expanded and grew from the characters that I saw there in that scene - as I wrote - until I found there was more than I could reasonably fit into a single book.

There does come a point (for me at least, I presume it is true for most) where you begin to see the direction you want things to take and you start nudging your characters in that direction. That first novel had various places where the writing stopped because what was going to happen next didn't just come from the characters and I had to force things along by picking a direction (I can still pick those places out and wonder if readers will too).

Things were a little different for the second book in the series, I had what I thought was an end-point for that novel ... but writing the book changed that ending considerably (and I had to rewrite the first half of it to clean up the winding path it took to get where it was going). I seem to be stalled on the third, despite (or because of?) knowing what I want to happen. It's almost as if the motivation for writing has been partly lost because I already know big chunks of the story. I have to get past that (my wife says so ).

There are obviously lots of hazards in the no-outline approach (just as there are in the outline approach), but I have used it because it's what seemed to be working for me - this time around anyway.

Last edited by gmw; 10-09-2012 at 07:43 AM. Reason: Typo
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Old 10-09-2012, 08:26 AM   #19
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You could regard the first draft as an extremely detailed outline. I know some people write a zeroth draft, and then try to figure out what the story is.

I enjoy the discovery and making stuff up on the fly, and feel that I might not enjoy the writing if I outlined too heavily in advance, but I also think I end up with badly-structured stories quite often.
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Old 10-09-2012, 08:35 AM   #20
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You could regard the first draft as an extremely detailed outline. I know some people write a zeroth draft, and then try to figure out what the story is.
I could not. I write iteratively. Meaning I am constantly back tracking over my own work and editing as I go forward. My "first draft" is probably closer to what a 5th or 6th draft would be if I blazed through to the end and then went back and edited.

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Old 10-09-2012, 10:21 AM   #21
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You could regard the first draft as an extremely detailed outline. I know some people write a zeroth draft, and then try to figure out what the story is.
Like VydorScope I work iteratively, I have no idea how many times the early parts of the first book were "edited"; the entire book evolved as I wrote. If what I have written previously stops involving me in the story (which is what I rely on it to do to get me back into the flow of writing) then I know something is wrong and it gets reworked.

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I enjoy the discovery and making stuff up on the fly, and feel that I might not enjoy the writing if I outlined too heavily in advance, but I also think I end up with badly-structured stories quite often.
That is certainly one of the big risks, and there are others. Like-wise a detailed outline faces the risks of forcing characters into out-of-character choices and/or being overly obvious and predictable. Whatever method you choose (or have chosen for you), you must recognise the problems and try to deal with them as best you can. I added "have chosen for you" because the subsequent books in this series I am working on come predefined, to a certain extent, by the background I created in order to complete the first book, so I am no longer working completely without an outline, even if it remains a very vague one. I can imagine the reverse happening, starting with an outline but discovering, while writing, that your characters want to be involved in something quite different.

As has been said here, and on previous threads, you need to use what works for you ... and keep in mind that that may change when you start something new.
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Old 10-09-2012, 02:17 PM   #22
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I'll agree with others that say that each of us has their own style.

I used to outline, but became easily bored with the story because I always knew what happened next.

Now I don't have a clue what's going to happen next and I'm having a blast. I'm just as surprised as the characters at everything that happens.
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Old 10-09-2012, 02:30 PM   #23
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Yep, I too am actually done with all drafting by the time the manuscript is complete.

I write out of chronological order. Sometimes I call it the "mold" method. A bunch of ideas and images and snippets grow to fill in and become a full story.

One thing nobody has mentioned here is that the nature of the story will affect how much planning (or rewriting) you need to do. Certain kinds of mystery, suspense, twist stories depend more on misdirection and laying the seeds of the ending in the beginning and all that. You can wing major parts of such a story, but you do have to know what you're setting up for.

An adventure or drama, though, only requires that you know the characters, their goals, and the setting, before you can set them loose.

I do disagree with Hemingway (as quoted up above) for most people, at least those with less experience, if you don't know where you're going, your destination is likely to be so mundane that your audience will see it coming long before you do.

However, once a writer has mastered his or her craft, that tends to not be a problem.

Camille
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Old 10-09-2012, 07:50 PM   #24
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Originally Posted by DaringNovelist View Post
[...]I do disagree with Hemingway (as quoted up above) for most people, at least those with less experience, if you don't know where you're going, your destination is likely to be so mundane that your audience will see it coming long before you do.
Funny how different people see it different ways. I tend to agree with the Hemingway quote. For me writing from no outline was surprising, what characters would actually end up doing in a given context was not obvious to me from the outside. Whereas most ideas I've had when trying to outline tend to look trite and predictable when I look at them later.
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Old 10-09-2012, 10:34 PM   #25
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Funny how different people see it different ways. I tend to agree with the Hemingway quote. For me writing from no outline was surprising, what characters would actually end up doing in a given context was not obvious to me from the outside. Whereas most ideas I've had when trying to outline tend to look trite and predictable when I look at them later.
For me as well. I wrote one story from an outline, and it feels stale to everyone. Comments were roughly: "Very good prose, but the story doesn't quite punch me in the gut."

I then wrote several stories from no outlines, and I got, "Still good prose, and the story haunts me a little more than the first one."

Then I wrote one from a super vague outline (three scenes that had formed in my head) and I got, "Good, good, good, needs a better ending."

I'm leaning away from outlining still, but had started this thread because James Frey's "How to Write A Damn Good Mystery" was so urgent about the need to outline.
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Old 10-10-2012, 05:18 AM   #26
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I go with the 'whatever turns you on' gang. I write a 2-5 page outline of where I want to go, and sometimes I end up there, more or less. But new things happen on the way, which can actually delay the story as it appears in the outline.

One thing I find very useful is what I call a prehistory of the main characters - a sort of potted biography of how and why they got to where they are when the story opens. Quite often a lot of this will not appear in the actual story, but it helps me to understand the person, and know better how they will react in a given situation.

And the most important document I create is a detailed time line of the main events and subsidiary events, and that I have to update if something in the story changes, or I can tie myself in knots with things which happen out of turn. The time line prevents you, say, having a baby in three months or twelve months, helps you to keep track of birthdays, for things like being old enough to drink, drive, vote and do all the other things teenagers look forward to doing. It's not just a time line of events, in other words, but I have columns for the main characters where their age in years and months is calculated at each event.

Just now I'm working on a metatime line. I'm working on my third novel, in a series, where characters have major or minor roles in the various novels, and I have to keep track of where in the overall time line I am. Like A was x months pregnant at the end of book 1. How old is her child now, and what sex is it at the start of book 2.
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Old 10-10-2012, 11:10 AM   #27
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Specific, down to the last detail outlining is really not for everyone.

I agree that we all have some sort of idea of conflict, motivation and resolution before we start, but other than than a really fuzzy beginning and a really fuzzy ending, I'm most comfortable of letting the story write itself with the small exception if I'm working on a detective type story. As much as I hate outlining, I need to force myself to work one up for the clues to make sense and be interesting enough. But for anything else? I'm at the mercy of my characters.
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Old 10-14-2012, 02:01 AM   #28
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While I agree that it's up to each writer to discover their method and the majority in this thread are pantsers, I prefer to outline using Word's Outline view. This gives me a skeleton of the elements of the plot, which can be easily changed, or new ideas incorporated, along the way. I can only "pants" flash fiction, even with that, I find myself running out of inspiration after about 500 words. I need direction from a pre-worked out plot and characters.

If you don't outline, how do you cope with things like research? For example, one of the ideas I have for this year's nano is set around 1920, in the English countryside, and one of my main characters is a woman around 17 years old who is literate. She's from a poor family, her father is a farm worker. So I have to research the education system of the time. I remember the "we must educate our masters" quote after one of the increases in voting rights, but I don't think there was free education in the UK at that time. And for a woman?

Stuff like this needs planning in order to write a realistic novel. How would you manage that without an outline? For me the outline provides direction.

I don't over-outline, just work out the basic plot steps. Word's outline view allows me to paste in the writing I do, and move things around. Also to get rid of steps I decide I don't want and include new ideas. For me, it's part of the fun of constructing the novel. I'll be doing an outline for my nano novel when I've finally decided which story to run with.

But different methods work for different people.
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Old 10-14-2012, 07:28 AM   #29
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[...]If you don't outline, how do you cope with things like research?[...]
With difficulty. It depends on the situation. If you need the detail in order to keep writing then you are forced to stop and research, but mostly I try to leave a note to myself in the text and research it when I come back. Once I know that a character is going somewhere, then I will generally take time-out to read from a variety of sources before proceeding much further - there is a randomness to this that sometimes adds surprises.

My biggest problem is not having the money to actually travel to all the places that my characters need to go - but I imagine that's a problem that most of us face (even more so if you write sci-fi or other-world fantasy ).
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Old 10-14-2012, 07:36 AM   #30
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My biggest problem is not having the money to actually travel to all the places that my characters need to go - but I imagine that's a problem that most of us face (even more so if you write sci-fi or other-world fantasy ).

Yeah...my series is MULTI DIMENSIONAL. The post jump hang over is killer!
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