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Thread: Do you consider outlining writing?

  1. #1
    figuring it all out
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    Do you consider outlining writing?

    Many writers will tell you that you need to WRITE EVERY DAY in order to be successful. Personally, I don't agree with this staunch position. I think you need to write A LOT, but if you miss a day - even two or three in a row from time to time - I think you're fine as long as you continue to write regularly. But really it depends on what kind of person and writer you are.

    But for the sake of my question let's just say you do write every day.

    Suppose you are in the outlining phase on a new project. You dedicate, oh let's say three hours sitting at your desk in front of your laptop or at a coffee shop with a notebook or whatever your process is. You spend most of that time brainstorming. Thinking. Maybe doing a bit of research online. Occasionally jotting down a note or a potential plot detail or character quirk or bit of dialogue. Technically you're putting a few words down, but you're not really WRITING writing.

    So, if you're a "write every day" person do you consider this brainstorming session to be writing? Or would you still set aside some time to bang out 1000 words of prose (or whatever you've mandated for yourself) on some unrelated project?

  2. #2
    please distract me mccardey's Avatar
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    If it's focussed - absolutely.. I also consider the thinking bit to be writing, if it's focussed. There's more than just words in a good book is my excuse.
    Last edited by mccardey; 11-21-2017 at 05:21 AM.

  3. #3
    practical experience, FTW indianroads's Avatar
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    Yes - I would consider all the work that's focused on the novel or story to be writing.

    For my next book I've been working on characterization (I have my characters write letters to me), environment, politics, and science for the past 3 weeks. Just started on the plot outline today - still have a long way to go before I get into the actual text.

  4. #4
    Aerospace engineer turned writer Laer Carroll's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by indianroads View Post
    Yes - I would consider all the work that's focused on the novel or story to be writing.
    Absolutely. This includes research focused on a writing project, even it it's work for a series that has not yet coalesced into a plot idea. Writing is a complex process, and setting words to page is only a part of it.

  5. #5
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    I don't outline, but writing is mostly thinking. To the detriment of my social life, it can be all I think about at times. Books live in my head a long time - years, often - before I get to writing anything proper. Most of that is brainstorming, or just gestating in the story.
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  6. #6
    Three of a perfect pair. AW Moderator amergina's Avatar
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  7. #7
    Herder of Hamsters AW Admin's Avatar
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    You get to decide what your writing process it; just remember the ultimate goal is to make a book.*



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  8. #8
    Things Will Change Victor Douglas's Avatar
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    I dont outline my entire work, but I do outline scenes. I dont count "thinking sessions" unless it produces something. Doesn't have to be any particular word count, doesn't even have to be something that goes directly into the work, but it has to produce something that I put on a page. This can result in some stressful moments when I realize that I am running out of time and I haven't written anything yet!

  9. #9
    practical experience, FTW LJD's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by NealM View Post
    So, if you're a "write every day" person do you consider this brainstorming session to be writing?
    Yep. Brainstorming, outlining, writing the first draft, revising, editing... this is all "writing" to me.

    I usually write six days a week.

  10. #10
    Learning to read more, post less
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    i try to scribble out one when i get lost in some forest of words i've written. always feels strange to go from writing to this-
    -bob is sad he left his wife, but he is glad, too.
    -his wife is not sad at all. she is banging his friend, jerry. she is very happy.
    -bob goes to work the next morning. not much happens there. except he believes he now knows jerry has been sleeping with his wife and he confronts him in the office kitchen and threatens to throw hot coffee on him and calls him a donut. jerry punches him in the face.
    -bob gets fired. yada yada yada. goes home. wife has changed the locks.
    -cut to bob in the slammer, for breaking in and the domestic issues which followed.

    anyway, it's hard to write these things, but as a writing tool they can help sort out bob and his wife's issues and jerry in the middle, etc. jerry personally isn't their trouble. jerry represents their trouble. stuff like that.
    -

  11. #11
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    I tend to envision key moments of the story first. One of my outlines is a stream of consciousness mess where I write down all the dialogue for the hot minutes when they come to me.

    Then once that explodes all over itself, I start a second outline in the form of a series of events (linear and coherent, oh my). Sometimes other arcs get their own outlines beyond that, first in a stream of consciousness outline and then bullet points.

    The point of this rant is that I ran a word count on these the other day and realized I have about 30k in outlines for my WIP... so, yeah, that's writing, albeit disordered and full of placeholders.

    I am trying to complete the plotting phase for my next book as I write this one, though, because I do believe there is merit in getting *structured* words on paper. It's really easy for me to hide behind, "Oh, but I'm outlining!" when I'm really just procrastinating.

    The most important thing for me these days is writing down *every single idea* as I have it--whether that means when I'm at work, waking up in the middle of the night, as soon as I'm done sitting in traffic, sending psychotic texts to myself... It's surprising how quickly the little details add up into a giant story when you take the time to catch them like Pokemon.

  12. #12
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    A contrary opinion, perhaps, but no, I don't consider outlining to be "writing". Which may make these words a matter of semantics, perhaps. But I've seen way too many threads and posts here at AW which suggest that some writers make outlining/planning into a form of procrastination to avoid the hard work of actually writing a story. Which is not to suggest that outlining/planning are bad things, or unproductive things. Just that outlining/planning do not substitute for the actual process of getting words out in a coherent narrative manner that people may like to read.

    Perhaps my view derives from personal experience in a writer's group I used to attend. Two different regulars there were obsessive about presenting their "plans" for novels, but never ever got to the stage of writing the stories.

    Outlining and planning are obviously productive activities for many writers. But they do not, in my opinion, actually constitute "writing". No reader wants to read your outline.

    caw
    Last edited by blacbird; 11-21-2017 at 08:49 AM.
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  13. #13
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    No reader wants to read your outline.
    I found this word in my outline yesterday: motivaselfion

    I can't even read my own outlines

  14. #14
    ....... Harlequin's Avatar
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    Reading is writing. Critting is writing. Thinking (be that outlining or pondering over a cup of tea/coffee) is writing. You need all of it and yes it counts.

    I only have short spaces in the day, due to young kids, where I can put words to paper. Almost all "writing" takes place in my head beforehand.
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  15. #15
    practical experience, FTW Bacchus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Harlequin View Post
    pondering over a cup of tea/coffee) is writing
    Excellent. I write a lot!

  16. #16
    please distract me mccardey's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by blacbird View Post
    I've seen way too many threads and posts here at AW which suggest that some writers make outlining/planning into a form of procrastination to avoid the hard work of actually writing a story. Which is not to suggest that outlining/planning are bad things, or unproductive things. Just that outlining/planning do not substitute for the actual process of getting words out in a coherent narrative manner that people may like to read.

    <<snip>>

    Outlining and planning are obviously productive activities for many writers. But they do not, in my opinion, actually constitute "writing". No reader wants to read your outline.

    caw
    This is why I mentioned the focus thing. You make a good point, of course. Procrastination - and indeed wankery - can look a lot like the thinking thing. But I'm assuming good intentions.
    Last edited by mccardey; 11-21-2017 at 12:48 PM.

  17. #17
    permanently suctioned to Buz's leg Putputt's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by NealM View Post
    Many writers will tell you that you need to WRITE EVERY DAY in order to be successful. Personally, I don't agree with this staunch position. I think you need to write A LOT, but if you miss a day - even two or three in a row from time to time - I think you're fine as long as you continue to write regularly. But really it depends on what kind of person and writer you are.

    But for the sake of my question let's just say you do write every day.

    Suppose you are in the outlining phase on a new project. You dedicate, oh let's say three hours sitting at your desk in front of your laptop or at a coffee shop with a notebook or whatever your process is. You spend most of that time brainstorming. Thinking. Maybe doing a bit of research online. Occasionally jotting down a note or a potential plot detail or character quirk or bit of dialogue. Technically you're putting a few words down, but you're not really WRITING writing.

    So, if you're a "write every day" person do you consider this brainstorming session to be writing? Or would you still set aside some time to bang out 1000 words of prose (or whatever you've mandated for yourself) on some unrelated project?
    I consider outlining WORK, but I don't consider it writing, because to me, part of the difficulty with writing is making sure my sentences are coming out at least semi-coherent. When I outline, I don't worry about that at all. My outlines consist of "Um...and then what happens...OH! Character A runs into this problem and then...hmm, maybe it's time for Character X to come into the picture?" It's still work -- like you said, most of that time is spent brainstorming, thinking, researching, and piecing together character arcs and a plot and stuff, but it's not writing.

    When I write everyday, writing becomes easier. The words flow. Once I stop and come back to it after a break, it's a challenge to get back into. The words come out fighting, my sentences are clunky, and I want to trash all of it. After spending a week outlining, writing is a challenge to get back into, purely because I haven't been exercising that part of my brain. So to me, outlining is a very different beast to writing. (But it is still a beast.)
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  18. #18
    ....... Harlequin's Avatar
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    I would add the caveat that it has to translate to something, in the end ;-) Otherwise you've just had a nice cup of tea which, while pleasant in itself, doesn't help you writing-wise.

    I spent all of yesterday thinking over a new chapter. This morning I wrote it down in two hours. I probably could have written it over the course of the day before, more slowly, for the same effect, but it's easier for me to compress my time this way round. As long as it has payoff.
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  19. #19
    Abnormal Romance Author thethinker42's Avatar
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    I certainly count it as working, but as blacbird pointed out, it can also be a form of procrastination. With my first book, I literally spent years tweaking the outline, planning the story, etc., and only in hindsight realized I was doing anything but...you know...writing it. Call it performance anxiety, call it laziness, call it a combination of the two, but the end result was that the book wasn't actually getting written.

    Other than situations like that, yes, outlining absolutely counts as being productive. Whether you call it writing or call it something else, that's up to you. I keep track of my word counts on a color-coded spreadsheet, and outlining days are the same color as editing days, which basically signal "I was working, just didn't actually write." Whatever works best for you.
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  20. #20
    practical experience, FTW Bacchus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Harlequin View Post
    I would add the caveat that it has to translate to something, in the end ;-) Otherwise you've just had a nice cup of tea which, while pleasant in itself, doesn't help you writing-wise.

    I spent all of yesterday thinking over a new chapter. This morning I wrote it down in two hours. I probably could have written it over the course of the day before, more slowly, for the same effect, but it's easier for me to compress my time this way round. As long as it has payoff.
    I was flippant in my earlier response but - yes - have many writing-days like that; days where I ponder, pontificate, and even procrastinate, then I go for a walk which culminates in an intense burst of keyboard activity. I also have writing-days where I struggle, write a sentence, revise it, write two more and probably end up with a similar overall output, but I love the days of thought and intensity.

    I wouldn't consider walking in the woods and outlining a chapter in my head as writing, but I would consider it an essential part of the writing process.

  21. #21
    Not as sweet as you think Aggy B.'s Avatar
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    Outlining, for me, is usually the Zero Draft - the thing that comes before the first real draft. (Although sometimes it exists only in my head.) It's part of the writing process, but it's not quite the same as writing the book itself. (Just like research is not quite the same as writing the book itself, even if it is a necessary part of the process.)

    The only time it becomes any sort of issue is when you get caught up in the prep work (outlining, character sketches, research) and don't move on to the book. The book (screenplay, poem, story) is always the goal - it's the marathon or hike. Outlining/research/etc are the muscle stretches beforehand so you don't cramp up partway through.
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  22. #22
    ....... Harlequin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Aggy B. View Post
    Outlining, for me, is usually the Zero Draft - the thing that comes before the first real draft. (Although sometimes it exists only in my head.) It's part of the writing process, but it's not quite the same as writing the book itself. (Just like research is not quite the same as writing the book itself, even if it is a necessary part of the process.)

    The only time it becomes any sort of issue is when you get caught up in the prep work (outlining, character sketches, research) and don't move on to the book. The book (screenplay, poem, story) is always the goal - it's the marathon or hike. Outlining/research/etc are the muscle stretches beforehand so you don't cramp up partway through.
    I'm one of those lazy people who stretches in the middle of a run, and only after everything has started to hurt. Funnily enough I seem to write in the same way as well (outlining only after I've written myself into a corner and gotten stuck...) >.>


    and yes, fair dos Bacchus :-)
    Happiness, is just a word to me
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  23. #23
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    Outlining is useful, but I've had some trouble during the outlining phase since at some point I was itching to write the actual story. For my current WiP I managed to hold out for about five days outlining and preparing, and then I started writing because I was beginning to feel unproductive even though, objectively, I was working every day on the story.

    The few days helped to get a good start, but I guess I'm similar to Harlequin in that I usually consider outlining once I'm stuck.

    So while it feels like working on the story to me, I don't really consider it writing.

  24. #24
    Willing to Learn MythMonger's Avatar
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    I consider a lot of things to be a part of the writing process: brainstorming, outlining, researching, writing a query, critting other peoples' work, reading about other people's experiences with writing, etc.

    But the only thing I consider writing is directly typing the words in my manuscript. Everything else, to me, is just the set up for writing. Can't do it without the process, but the only thing that people are going to see or even care about it is the final product: the words on the page.
    I wrote my way into this mess, and I'll write my way out.

  25. #25
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    I'm curious for those who believe outlining is valid work but not actual "writing," are you folks the "write every single day" type? And if so, if you're in an outlining phase on something new, what do you write on those days to get your daily word count? Side project? Journal? Stream of consciousness? How-to manuals?

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