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vicky271
05-10-2017, 08:08 AM
I thank this community for being patient. Most of my posts are questions, complaints or frustrations. I can imagine frustration when reading my posts. It's the same thing over and over again. Thank you for keeping up/sticking with my self-centred, negative personality parts.

But on to business...

Standard outlining hasn't worked. Ever. I've put several weeks into it (for this specific project). I've tried several types. And it's a mess. Too many unfinished documents, voice memos, etc. It all boils down to this: I can't get anything on to the page.

Tonight, as I was multi-tasking (it's become absolutely necessary; otherwise, i grow stir-crazy) I was trying to outline. As I wrote down basics, i hit the usual road-block: Transcribing thoughts into words. I couldn't. I had these events, and images running through my imagination. But document wouldn't accept 'em.

So I took a few deep breaths, hit enter until i was at the next fresh page, and started a loose outline. At this point, i've determined this is my brainstorming phase. Or part of it. So far so good. I managed two paragraphs. That's a record.

I did this once for a fan-fiction a year or two ago. It worked beautifully. I wrote 13 pages. The story was twenty or thirty something chapters. And it didn't suck for a loose draft. I passed it by a few honest friends, and got constructive critique plus some praise. Seems the method worked.

Questions is: Have I made a mistake? Is it too early to write a loose-outline-not-really-a-outline?

mccardey
05-10-2017, 08:21 AM
I don't see a problem with it. There are plotters and pantsers and all mixes thereof. In the early stages, whatever gets words on the paper is what you need to do.

Hope that helps. Good luck!

cornflake
05-10-2017, 08:21 AM
I'm not sure I follow -- why would that be a mistake? If you don't want to outline, don't. If you want to outline on a napkin, or use the snowflake thing, or write on your wall, go nuts.

mccardey
05-10-2017, 08:30 AM
What is it exactly that you're worried about?

vicky271
05-10-2017, 08:34 AM
I'm not sure I follow -- why would that be a mistake? If you don't want to outline, don't. If you want to outline on a napkin, or use the snowflake thing, or write on your wall, go nuts.

That I'll mess up.

Evidently, the end goal is a finished outline.


What is it exactly that you're worried about?

That the story will lack. Whether that be character development, the plot, etc.

MaeZe
05-10-2017, 08:46 AM
I'm not one to worry about messing up. My philosophy is, of course I will. That's what revising and editing is for. Don't get hung up on being perfect. Spit the damn story out. There's your outline. Then start writing. That worked for me. Can't guarantee it will work for everyone. But I do believe perfection comes at the end, not at the beginning.

I'm going over my WIP. There are still some rough sections. But there are some chapters I totally believe in. I grew them with the help of a persistent critique group. I'm not sure if it's been 5 or 6 years, it's however long it takes to get it right. But one thing I am sure of, you have to write to get there, and you don't need to be there from the start.

Helix
05-10-2017, 08:48 AM
That I'll mess up.

Evidently, the end goal is a finished outline.

That the story will lack. Whether that be character development, the plot, etc.

You don't have to get it right the first time. That's what drafts are for. The first one might look like the written equivalent of a full nappy -- not unlike this metaphor -- but it doesn't matter.

mccardey
05-10-2017, 08:50 AM
You don't have to get it right the first time. That's what drafts are for. The first one might look like the written equivalent of a full nappy -- not unlike this metaphor -- but it doesn't matter.Yes, this. If you're plotting a little and pantsing a little it will have flashes of wonderfulness and some - well - gappy bits.

Get to the end, regardless, because then you go back and fix it all up.

Don't race. Trust the writer in you to know what needs doing.

jjdebenedictis
05-10-2017, 10:41 AM
Stephen King says never outline; it kills the story dead on the page.

Robert McKee says outline comprehensively; you can never "kill your darlings" ruthlessly enough once you've turned them into real prose.

The truth is, everyone's brain is wired differently and what helps one person will hinder someone else. You have to figure out what works for you. If loosey-goosey outlines are what's helping you, then make those.

Polenth
05-10-2017, 11:36 AM
It sounds like you've been stalling because you're trying to follow someone else's outlining system and it wasn't working for you. The thing to remember is no one is going to look at your outline. No one will care if you had an outline or you just started writing. People will only see the story at the end, so do what you need to do to make sure you get to the end. Any system that's preventing you from writing is a terrible decision. Any system that gets you writing is a good idea. As long as it doesn't involve murder or something.

EMaree
05-10-2017, 01:22 PM
Deep breaths, Vicky. You should listen to VE Schwab's recent YouTube video about plotting vs pantsing and her own in-between system (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xbmu4pWAMvo), it might help you remember that systems are flexible.

Lakey
05-10-2017, 03:10 PM
Stephen King says never outline; it kills the story dead on the page.
This is interesting because King is so widely regarded as an excellent craftsman. I'm not sure why it surprises me to hear that this is his advice, but it's fascinating. After all, lots of experienced writers swear by outlining.

I was just reading Dorothea Brande's Becoming A Writer, which contains this interesting piece of advice: Resist, at least at first, the temptation to talk out your story with your friends. You might want to talk about it all the time, but if you do, if you have that deep, satisfying conversation in which you explain everything about your story, you will have satisfied the need to tell it, and the urgency of writing it will be gone. It will be old news, a story twice told.

While this hasn't been my experience of talking my story out with the one friend I have talked about it with, or my experience of outlining, it does seem consistent with King's advice. If nothing else, it proves there is no one right answer, and experiencing and experimenting with your own process is the only way to find out what's the right answer for you, now.

As for not wanting to mess up - I understand this so well. I like to get things right the first time, too, and it's a crippling problem that gets in the way of even getting started. It's not just an issue for writing a novel, but a broader personality trait that inhibits almost everything I set out to do. It sucks. For the novel-writing project, I have to continually remind myself that I may write three times as much stuff as actually ends up in my manuscript. It's all part of the process.

Lately I have taken to writing things out in my notebook, instead of opening up The Next Chapter in that folder on my computer and committing myself to advancing The Novel. I feel less inhibited there, able to churn out more ideas without worrying about whether I've expressed them perfectly. Somehow seeing things in manuscript form makes them starker, more committed, and I get too caught up in getting each sentence perfect to allow the work to flow out. Writing in my notebook, I just write. Later, when I do sit down to start Chapter 12, I can work the best bits of whatever is in my notebook into the "real" manuscript. It's something new to try.

DancingMaenid
05-10-2017, 05:09 PM
The great thing about writing is that ideas never get "used up." It's not like sewing where once you cut into your fabric, you can't un-cut it, or baking where if you mess up your cake batter, you've wasted those ingredients. If you believe in your project, you can always revise, write a different draft, or whatever you need to do. The novel I'm writing now is inspired by something I wrote over ten years ago. Back then, it wasn't the time. Now it is, hopefully.

You don't have to outline if you don't want to. Outlining isn't a guarantee of success. And if you do start writing and realize you feel underprepared, you can stop and do more brainstorming. The only "mistake" you can make at this point is psyching yourself out.

Carrie in PA
05-10-2017, 06:29 PM
That I'll mess up.

Follow that thought to its conclusion.

You mess up.

So? What happens?

Riots? Assassinations? An uptick in global poverty? A bunny gets kicked? Electronic devices stop working worldwide? Zombie apocalypse?

Or:

You have to fiddle with your story a bit. You have to change a few details. You learn something during the whole process that makes you a better writer.

The bad news is that messing up is part of the process.

The good news is that there's no better way to grow and learn than by messing up and fixing it.

Fear is an excellent procrastinating device. Don't let it derail you!

MAS
05-10-2017, 07:48 PM
Lately I have taken to writing things out in my notebook, instead of opening up The Next Chapter in that folder on my computer and committing myself to advancing The Novel. I feel less inhibited there, able to churn out more ideas without worrying about whether I've expressed them perfectly. Somehow seeing things in manuscript form makes them starker, more committed, and I get too caught up in getting each sentence perfect to allow the work to flow out. Writing in my notebook, I just write. Later, when I do sit down to start Chapter 12, I can work the best bits of whatever is in my notebook into the "real" manuscript. It's something new to try.

I do something similar. I suffered from fear of the blank page. One year I attended a seminar where William Least Heat Moon was one of the speakers. He said that when he started writing, he also was paralyzed by the blank page. His workaround was to go to Woolworth's and buy a tablet of newsprint, the kind with blue lines that we used to use in first grade, and used a pencil to "jot down his thoughts". He told himself that it wasn't really writing, it was just jotting down notes onto newsprint, and that way he was able to make lots and lots of "notes" that he later turned into Blue Highways. I tried it and it worked for me. To this day my first drafts are written in pencil on a dime-store tablet.

vicky271
05-10-2017, 09:09 PM
Thank you everyone for the responses! I'm going to reply to each as soon as possible! :D

jjdebenedictis
05-10-2017, 10:52 PM
I was just reading Dorothea Brande's Becoming A Writer, which contains this interesting piece of advice: Resist, at least at first, the temptation to talk out your story with your friends. You might want to talk about it all the time, but if you do, if you have that deep, satisfying conversation in which you explain everything about your story, you will have satisfied the need to tell it, and the urgency of writing it will be gone. It will be old news, a story twice told.

Oh, yeah. Science backs this up. There was once a study that had two groups of people with a goal. They had one group sit and think about their goal, then start working. The second group talked about their goal, then started working.

They found the second group got less done but felt more satisfied with their progress than the group who only thought about what they wanted to accomplish.

Talking about it gives you a mental reward that fools your brain into thinking you've accomplished something. So don't be like that dude who is forever waxing eloquent about the book he plans to pen; shut up and write. :)

Myrealana
05-10-2017, 11:29 PM
Standard outlining hasn't worked. Ever. I've put several weeks into it (for this specific project). I've tried several types. And it's a mess. Too many unfinished documents, voice memos, etc. It all boils down to this: I can't get anything on to the page.

Tonight, as I was multi-tasking (it's become absolutely necessary; otherwise, i grow stir-crazy) I was trying to outline. As I wrote down basics, i hit the usual road-block: Transcribing thoughts into words. I couldn't. I had these events, and images running through my imagination. But document wouldn't accept 'em.

So I took a few deep breaths, hit enter until i was at the next fresh page, and started a loose outline. At this point, i've determined this is my brainstorming phase. Or part of it. So far so good. I managed two paragraphs. That's a record.

I did this once for a fan-fiction a year or two ago. It worked beautifully. I wrote 13 pages. The story was twenty or thirty something chapters. And it didn't suck for a loose draft. I passed it by a few honest friends, and got constructive critique plus some praise. Seems the method worked.

Questions is: Have I made a mistake? Is it too early to write a loose-outline-not-really-a-outline?
When it comes to writing, what works for you is what works. Period.

Don't tie yourself to any method of planning, plotting, outlining or writing.

I know a writer of historical fiction who claims to be 100% panster. But she puts together a 2-inch thick 3-ring binder of research materials for every single book. Maps, interviews, documents, pictures, character studies, even cloth samples from period clothing. These things are entire college-level research projects in themselves, full of rich detail. Only then does she sit down and write her book.

I have to have an entire outline on note cards before I can start, but I research details along the way. I have to know my plot and characters, but the details can wait until I'm in the moment.

As long as a book comes out at the end, neither of us is wrong.

AW Admin
05-10-2017, 11:33 PM
Do what works for you, for the book, or even for the section/stage of the book you're working on.

People are different. Books are different. Both can change.

Use what works.

Snitchcat
05-11-2017, 05:58 AM
You've gotten some great advice in this thread; I highly recommend taking on board lots, or all, of it.

A couple more thoughts for you to ponder; they may or no may not be useful, so take what works and discard what doesn't:


Standard outlining hasn't worked. Ever.

Good thing here: You know what does not work for you, therefore, you don't need to use it.


So I took a few deep breaths, hit enter until i was at the next fresh page, and started a loose outline. At this point, i've determined this is my brainstorming phase. Or part of it. So far so good. I managed two paragraphs. That's a record.

I did this once for a fan-fiction a year or two ago. It worked beautifully. I wrote 13 pages. The story was twenty or thirty something chapters. And it didn't suck for a loose draft. I passed it by a few honest friends, and got constructive critique plus some praise. Seems the method worked.

Good thing here: You know what does work for you, therefore, use it.

Btw, just FYI: If you're using Word, or LibreOffice, the shortcut to create a page break, or get you to the next fresh page, without a lot of extra blank lines is "ctrl+enter" on the keyboard. On the other hand, if extra blank lines work for you, use them.


Questions is: Have I made a mistake? Is it too early to write a loose-outline-not-really-a-outline?

Counter-question: How do you make a mistake when you're using a process that works for you? IMO, the only mistake to make is to continue using a process that you've discovered is counter-intuitive to how you write.

RWrites
06-30-2017, 06:15 AM
Nope, find what works for you. A loose outline works for me and gives enough breathing room. It's perfect because you can add or change things without having to fix the entire outline. Congrats on (re)joining the loose outline team!

blacbird
06-30-2017, 06:18 AM
Write the damn story.

caw

Tazlima
06-30-2017, 06:51 AM
I never could write from an outline. In my school days, when we had to create one as part of the assignment, I eventually figured out that I was better off writing the paper, then basing my outline on that, rather than the other way around. On the few occasions the teacher required we turn the outline in well in advance of the finished product, I just finished the whole thing super-early.

I have, however, found a way to sort of outline that's actually useful (for me) when working on a novel. I outline just a chapter or two, write it, then outline the next little bit. If a "proper" outline is a map showing the entire route, my method is sort of like climbing through rough terrain. Every time you top a rise, you pause and take the lay of the land to see how best to reach the next rise.

I've tried to do a full outline at the beginning, but three chapters in I inevitably find I've already deviated from the path so much that the entire map is basically useless.

Ambrosia
06-30-2017, 05:47 PM
Questions is: Have I made a mistake? Is it too early to write a loose-outline-not-really-a-outline?

You're asking the wrong questions.

Why are you trying to fit what works for you into a concept of outlining that doesn't work for you? You have said in your post that you know what works. You also know what doesn't work.

It's never too early to stop doing what doesn't work and do something that does.

So, do what works and forget the rest. Stop sabotaging yourself.

Cannelle
07-04-2017, 05:47 PM
So here's what happens when you mess up.

You look at the computer screen. "Egads!" you exclaim, shaking your head in dismay. "I declare, I do NOT like what I've written. Let's change that!" Deleting the scene you previously wrote (or maybe just parts of it), you proceed to rewrite the scene as many times as it takes to get it right.

The End. ;)

Here's what I do when I find something that isn't working. I have a file for each manuscript where I keep all my deleted scenes. Who knows, maybe there's something there- a spark of an idea, a particular turn of phrase- that I can use in the future. I copy whatever I'm getting rid of and paste it into that file, and then I look at the blank space in my manuscript's working file, and I get back to work.

As for outlining, do what works for you. I didn't outline my first novel, but the second one appeared in my brain in a way that outlining helped, so I did it. (I also wrote it almost completely out of order. Whatever scene was in my head that day, I'd write it, and then, when I'd look at what I had, I'd seen that I'd written scenes A, B, D, E, and G. So I would realize that my task would be to write Scene C (which would need to connect B to D), and so forth.) There's no one way to do this, and if you find that what you're doing isn't really working for you, in that it doesn't feel right or isn't producing the results you want, it's okay to change it! There are very few, if any, hard and fast rules to the writing process. Do whatever it is that you need to to produce something awesome. That's it. :)

AnthonyDavid11
07-07-2017, 03:59 AM
I would take what little you have and read it over and over until you get some flow going. If you've never written a novel, I wouldn't advise plotting. I started plotting because I eventually saw how much more work I was making for myself by not doing it but that was after like nine manuscripts. I didn't plan anything for most of them. If you haven't got much or any finished work, this is the goal for you at this point. Write something good or bad but do it from beginning to end and then mark it as done. No going back. I wrote a lot of short stories for a long time to hone my skills. They're not as much of a commitment and you can breeze through them and they can be bad and it's okay. By the time you hit the novel phase, you'll already have answers to a lot of questions built into your brain. It's beautiful what experience does for us.

Gidget1225
07-13-2017, 03:16 PM
Stephen King says never outline; it kills the story dead on the page.

Robert McKee says outline comprehensively; you can never "kill your darlings" ruthlessly enough once you've turned them into real prose.

The truth is, everyone's brain is wired differently and what helps one person will hinder someone else. You have to figure out what works for you. If loosey-goosey outlines are what's helping you, then make those.

I couldn't agree more (unless I could prove my method through getting published). Because I have only a couple of manuscripts under my belt, take what I offer with a shaker of salt.

I don't use an outline. I've tried to outline the story in my head (which has several story arcs) but have never been able to get an entire outline done before growing bored with the process. I'm one who gets ideas as she writes...often times when I'm exercising (it's like the increased blood flow to the brain brings on new ideas) and then I sit behind my laptop and write. Of course, I have a beginning, a general middle, and ending all in mind before I start a story. During the process, though, my characters take me places that I didn't imagine when beginning the story.

I keep a notebook and have been known to use index cards when the details get a bit turned around in my head. I've often felt that I might progress more quickly if I could use the outline method or use my index cards for more than a couple of weeks. But, I want to enjoy writing. Outlines and the such make it feel too artificial and forced for me.

KTC
07-13-2017, 03:23 PM
The path you take is yours to take and yours for the taking.