Monday, May 24, 2010

What's your outlining style?

Since I didn't have the most current copy of The Goddess of Vengeance Work Pink Galoshes on my computer this past week to work on, I've been focused on outlining. I'm using a combination method, outlining a few chapters ahead, but still letting things develop. So far, I like this method a lot, as someone who tends to write by the seat of her pants rather than according to a strict timeline -- it's good to know what comes next, even though I don't feel the urge to know the exact events of chapter eighteen yet.

My outline is flippin' long, though. Right now I think every page of my outline is about 10-15 pages of fiction; my outline is more of a synopsis (and a detailed synopsis, at that; not the kind of thing any agent would want to wade through!).

I've read and been intrigued by several different outlining styles, like the snowflake method and  chapter outlines or chapter summaries. For right now, though, what I'm doing seems to be working for me, even though this long outline is less efficient than some other methods (I've even found myself starting to outline Bodie's Men, when flashes of inspiration come to me, which I think is going be my 2010 NaNo project).  We'll see what outlining method I settle into when I've written ten novels - part of being a writer is experimentation, in my book. :p

The one thing I'm sold on? Outlining somehow, anyhow. I'm so much faster writing now, but I'm also enjoying my writing time more.  It's harder for me to get road blocked when I know what happens next and how my character is getting to that next pivotal scene!

Do you "pre-write", assembling your outline before you touch fingers to keyboard, make it up as you go along, or outline-as-you-go like me? If you do outline, what's your preferred method, or are you still deciding?


Piedmont Writer said...

I generally wait to outline until I reach Chapter 5. And even then it's really not an outline, more like notes or bits of dialogue for scenes that I want in the ms.

Old Kitty said...

Wow - 15 pages of synopsis/outline. That's amazing! Good luck with finding the outlining method that works for you. You are so right about "part of being a writer is experimentation"! :-)

I remember my last full MS (I clocked a massive 130,000 words?!!?!?!) I just sort of made it up as I went along. I see that now as a first draft. When I read through, I can see the outline and the plot and the story that helps with my re-drafting (and it does so need re-writing - it's at a really rubbishy hysterical stage! LOL!)

Take care

Meika said...

I'm a huge fan of outlining. My outline for my current WiP is around 20 pages. It helps me relax and enjoy the writing when I know where my story is going.

The downside, though, is that sometimes my characters don't want to cooperate. I've been fighting with them for a while now -- they just keep rebelling against the outline!

Taryn Tyler said...

I think most of writing is experimentation. I write every manuscript differently. I usually jot some ideas of what is going to happen down but don't get too detailed.

Christ is Write. said...

I'm not exactly an organized type of person, so I don't try to be too strict with outlining. However, I can't sit down and just write until the end, finding out what happens throughout the story. If I do that, I feel like nothing is happening, so I end up with writer's block. I think I'm more of an outline-as-you-go type of person. Before I began the first chapter, I had an idea of how the story would go. As I wrote, the plot-line kept developing more and more. Now, I know almost every detail of the plot I'm working on now. And since this is my first novel, I think it's best to intrigue and plan the plot skeleton as much as possible to catch reader's attention. I am coming up with more ideas on the way, though.

One simple method I've come up with is writing ACT 1 | ACT 2 | ACT 3 | ACT 4, then writing simple events in those acts. I also think it's a great idea to create chapter summaries before writing them, just to get an idea of where to take the story. A timeline is also helpful for me, too.

God bless!

Lynn Colt said...

I usually have at least the first few chapters outlined before I start writing, and I know generally how the book ends. Although with my current WIP the whole chapter-by-chapter outline flew out of my fingers one weekend, so I have a more complete vision of where I'm going this time around.

One thing I do try to do before starting the rough draft is writing a query. It helps focus me on what the point of the story is :)

Shelley Sly said...

My outline is my best friend. I just started a new WIP yesterday, and I *must* keep my outline Word Doc open at the same time. I'm not super strict with it; I mostly use it to give me direction rather than restrict me. But it's kind of like training wheels for me... I feel more comfortable writing knowing that something's going to catch me if I tip over.

Alexandra Shostak said...

I don't have a preferred method of outlining yet, but I do have a specific way I outline revisions. I think mostly I have a very general outline of plot (like, beginning, key points in middle, twists, and end) and then I usually outline every few chapters, like it sounds like you're doing.

Tiana Smith said...

I usually think of how I want the story to go. I have a beginning and an end, but the middle is always murky. I sit down to write, and if it comes out differently, I don't fight it. Almost always, it makes my story better in the end. I find that if I do too much outlining, I just keep outlining and I don't do any writing. (*insert sheepish grin*) Good luck!

Gina Leigh Maxwell said...

With my current book I was definitely a Pantser! Of course, I had no idea what I was doing or that there was even a proper way of going about writing a book. I think it worked well for me, though. I had a really good idea of where the storyline was going in my head, so I just worked through it as I went.

HOWEVER, the sequel to this one will need to be planned and outlined. I know the MCs of the story, and I know what the general premise of their story is, but I have NO IDEA about anything else. I will need to do some serious oulining and all that other junk to prepare for that one.

I'm not looking forward to it, that's for sure!

Guinevere said...

Piedmont, that's interesting... I do end with just notes for later on so far, since sometimes I know what scene is coming but not WHERE yet.

Old Kitty, I did that with my first draft too -- mine was also around 130k. At least once I wrote it I knew what it was about. :p The re-write, though, and cutting like 50k to start parts over, was brutal, and my story is also still in the rubbishy hysterical stage. lol. Good luck to us both, I guess!

Meika, that's my favorite part too - outlining makes the writing process a lot more fun! I haven't run into characters fighting me yet, but it wouldn't surprise me... my MC has a mind of her own!

Guinevere said...

Taryn, I'm still experimenting too - I love that, though (even though it'll be nice to have a method down, I kind of enjoy exploring the options).

Tessa, thanks for sharing your process! As a former theater geek, I like the idea of dividing into acts!

Lynn, starting off with a query is a great idea! I realized when I wrote my query for SHARDS is that my query was slightly more interesting than my actual novel, lol. It just pointed to some directions I could have taken with it.

Shelley, that's what I do too! Although I have to keep my Word doc with the outline open in part because I know otherwise I'll forget it and go off the rails...

Guinevere said...

Alexandra, I think outlining revisions is important -- I'm still working on mastering my revision process. It's so much harder for me than writing the rough draft!

Tiana, that sounds a bit like my outlining process too - I have the beginning and end, but the middle is a bit murky and that I'm outlining just a few chapters ahead. I just can't know EVERYTHING that's going to happen to get my MC from A to B ahead of time; that's just not me. Writing is a discovery process for me.

Gina, I feel you on the outlining for novel 2 but I think outlining can be fun if you find the right method for you! If you're still trying to suss out the details, you might want to try the snowflake method I linked to; that seems really helpful for helping to build the plot details.

Sa Toya said...

Snowflake method...yes I've heard of and even tried it.

My preferred method is a mixture of going with the flow and outlining.
Sometimes outlining helps me as I don't get carried away other times I just go with it!

Writers' block is my ongoing problem that and prcratination.