Thursday, August 13, 2015

Outlining


I realize it's been a while since I've blogged about craft or my own writing. Imagine that! Kind of silly since this is, after all, a writing blog! So...

Today I'm working on outlining. I'm not outlining a new story, but I'm working on reoutlining the end of a draft. (Is "reoutlining" even a word? It should be!)

How I work:
I outline a whole novel, breaking it down from start to finish. I love having a road map to follow, or a skeleton to fill in and make solid. Still, my outline is fluid. I often tend to come up with more interesting pieces as I write or I find flaws in some of my earlier ideas. Since this can never be predicted, the roads on my map change, the bones of my skeleton alter.

Once I've outlined, I start writing. At the beginning of a new chapter or sometimes before particular scenes, I do a basic outline again, writing down what I'm hoping to accomplish. If bits of dialogue or any other details hit me or float across my brain while outlining, I make note of them before I can forget them. 

This process requires me to change my bigger map from time to time. Right now is one of those times. I know where I'm headed and I know many of the things that have to happen between now and the end of the book, but I have to get them in the ideal order, eliminate paths that no longer feel right, and fill in spots. Since I can always cut things later, I tend to over-write in earlier drafts--or in new sections of older drafts. I'm not letting myself go back and edit yet (at least, not much) because I want to get to the end of this draft. Instead, I make notes to myself for the next draft. Suggestion: keep notes in the same place so they're together and easy to locate.

Right now I'm finding note cards to be helpful. I can move them and play with the order of my scenes, add cards, and remove cards. Some cards are filled, front and back, and some are just one single line. I trim (literally--with scissors) the ones that aren't full; I can always add more cards to fill in blanks and--I don't know--maybe being able to physically handle my pieces and use scissors and a pencil gives me some sort of benefit. I'm one of those people who likes to feel fabrics and paper and books when I'm shopping. Maybe I'm feeling my way through my novel's ending!

I bought Scrivener last year, but I never committed to learning it. For those of you who are unfamiliar with it, Scrivener is a really cool software application designed for writers, and it has all sorts of features, including a virtual corkboad with virtual note cards to help with outlining. I plan to learn it better eventually, but, as I said, I'm not yet there. I suppose my method is like Scrivener for Cavemen and Cavewomen. Tee-hee!

I discovered I can sometimes see my story clearer or fresher if I change the way I'm outlining it. For example:
*switching from a computer outline to one in a spiral notebook
*breaking my story into three acts and dangling scenes from a line
*switching from a detailed outline on pages to scenes on note cards or scenes labeled on a blank, printed-out calendar

I don't know how many of you are "plotters" (those who plot in advance) or "pantsers" (those who write without a lot of plotting ahead of time--by the seat of their pants). I'm definitely a plotter--though I leave room for and honor the magic that comes when I least expect it, the stuff I could never have thought of without writing out my story.

Of course, there isn't a correct or an incorrect method. This is just how I do things.

How about you? Are you a plotter or a pantser? If you're a plotter, please share something about the way you plot your novels! If you're a pantser, please tell me about that! I'd love to hear!

13 comments:

Jemi Fraser said...

I wish I was more of a plotter! I'm trying. Currently I tend to have the people (not the plot) walk around in my head for a bit to get to know them. Then I write the first draft (knowing the ending will be an HEA helps and I've usually 'seen' the first and final scenes by then). Then I put it aside for a bit. Then I look at scene titles (not all of them) and write a short synopsis (<1000 words), then I rewrite without looking at the first draft. By then, I tend to know where I'm going, what the major events need to be. Rewriting without looking helps me eliminate the garbage scenes :)

Not efficient or pretty but it's sort of working right now!

Dawn Simon said...

Hi, Jemi! It's super interesting to learn what other writers do! I've heard people recommend writing a second draft without looking at the first, but I've never tried it. It sounds brave. I don't know if there are efficient, pretty ways to write a novel! Even with outlining, I tend to learn about my novel as I write it, and I work in drafts. Thank you for telling me about your process!

Medeia Sharif said...

I write a 24 chapter outline on Excel or a Word chart. It usually doesn't end up 24 because I'll merge or split chapters within that outline. I change the outline as I write if new ideas come to me.

Dawn Simon said...

Medeia, my obsessive-compulsive heart loves how tidy that sounds! Thank you for sharing!

Margaret Nevinski said...

I'm in between a plotter and a pantser (what a great word, and Auto Correct tried to change it to panther!). I like to know where I'm going, but don't like to plot too much along the way---when I've tried doing that, I felt as if I were painting by number. I like to envision the climactic scene of the book, and then figure out how to get my MC to that point. For the novel I'm working on now, I used The Writer's Journey by Christopher Vogler, which was super helpful for structure. A wise teacher once told me that writing a novel was a "wobbly process," and boy was he right!

Dawn Simon said...

Margaret, the "wobbly process" comment is so spot on! I get what you're saying about the painting by numbers. It's so interesting to hear what other writers do. Thank you for sharing!

DMS said...

Fun to learn about your outlining process. My process is similar in a way because first I outline by hand, then on the computer. Then at the end of each chapter I talk to my co-author and together we re-outline what we are about to start writing. :) Doing that helps me get my ideas together and write.
~Jess

Dawn Simon said...

Hi, Jess! Like you, I often start by hand and then move to computer! Great minds... :) Fun to read about how you work with your co-author! Thanks for visiting and sharing!

Julie Dao said...

I am a huge, huge plotter! I like to be meticulous about writing because I really think it helps make a smoother, cleaner draft. Pantsers can produce excellent books, but I think their revisions are a lot more brutal than ours. Loved hearing about your outlining process! I'm thinking about trying out Scrivener sometime soon.

Sharon K. Mayhew said...

I think we may do a lot alike. I do a lot of lists of potential scenes in sections. then I go back and write more lists for each list in each section. Then words I like that revolve around each sublist. Then I make posters and index cards and then I start the real writing. :)

Dawn Simon said...

Julie, let me know if you try Scrivener. I'd love to hear what you think!

Sharon, fun to read how you work! I love lists! Yes, it sounds like we work in similar ways!

Thank you both for sharing about your process!

Marianne Kearns said...

I know for a fak, Jak, Cappuccinos have a wholegobbalotta sugar... so just be carefull. I dont wanna lose your adorable face any time soon. Had enuff wisdom? Too bad, dear. You're just gettn started...

Wanna wiseabove to help a 'Plethora Of Wurdz' which are look'n for a new home in your novelty?? Yay!

Q: But [gulp] can anyone tell me the difference between K2 and IQ? A: Nthn. In Heaven, we gitt'm both for eternity HA! Need a few more thots, ideers, wild wurdz (whoa, Nelly! easy, girl!) or ironclad iconoclasms? Voila!!

VERBUM SAT SAPIENTI: As an ex-writer of the sassy, savvy, schizophenia we all go thro in this lifelong demise, I wanna help U.S. git past the whorizontal more!ass! we're in (Latin: words to [the] wise)...

"This finite existence is only a test, son," God Almighty told me in my coma. "Far beyond thy earthly tempest is where you'll find tangible, corpulent eloquence". Lemme tella youse without d'New Joisey accent...

I actually saw Seventh-Heaven when we died: you couldn't GET! any moe curly, party-hardy-endorphins, extravagantly-surplus-lush Upstairs (in [the] end without end -Saint Augustine) when my o-so-beautifull, brilliant, bombastic girly passed-away due to those wry, sardonic satires.

"Those who are wise will shine as brightly as the expanse of the Heavens, and those who have instructed many in uprightousness as bright as stars for all eternity" -Daniel 12:3, NJB

Here's also what the prolific, exquisite GODy sed: 'the more you shall honor Me, the more I shall bless you' -the Infant Jesus of Prague.

Go gitt'm, girl. You're incredible. See you Upstairs. I won't be joining'm in the nasty Abyss where retarded Isis prowls
thesuperseedoftime.blogspot.com
infowars.com
-YOUTHwitheTRUTH
-------------------------------
PS Need summore unique, uncivilized, useless names? Lemme gonna gitcha started, brudda:

Oak Woods, Franky Sparks, Athena Noble, Autumn Rose, Faith Bishop, Dolly Martin, Willow Rhodes, Cocoa Major, Roman Stone, Bullwark Burnhart, Magnus Wilde, Kardiak Arrest, Will Wright, Goldy Silvers, Penelope Summers, Sophie Sharp, Violet Snow, Lizzy Roach, BoxxaRoxx, Aunty Dotey, Romero Stark, Zacharia Neptoo, Mercurio Morrissey, Fritz & Felix Franz, Victor Payne, Isabella Silverstein, Mercedes Kennedy, Redding Rust, Phoenix Martini, Ivy Squire, Sauer Wolfe, Yankee Cooky, -blessed b9 ...shake well B4 use!

God blessa youse
(trust-N-Jesus)
-Fr. Sarducci, ol SNL

Marianne Kearns said...

I know for a fak, Jak, Cappuccinos have a wholegobbalotta sugar... so just be carefull. I dont wanna lose your adorable face any time soon. Had enuff wisdom? Too bad, dear. You're just gettn started...

Wanna wiseabove to help a 'Plethora Of Wurdz' which are look'n for a new home in your novelty?? Yay!

Q: But [gulp] can anyone tell me the difference between K2 and IQ? A: Nthn. In Heaven, we gitt'm both for eternity HA! Need a few more thots, ideers, wild wurdz (whoa, Nelly! easy, girl!) or ironclad iconoclasms? Voila!!

VERBUM SAT SAPIENTI: As an ex-writer of the sassy, savvy, schizophenia we all go thro in this lifelong demise, I wanna help U.S. git past the whorizontal more!ass! we're in (Latin: words to [the] wise)...

"This finite existence is only a test, son," God Almighty told me in my coma. "Far beyond thy earthly tempest is where you'll find tangible, corpulent eloquence". Lemme tella youse without d'New Joisey accent...

I actually saw Seventh-Heaven when we died: you couldn't GET! any moe curly, party-hardy-endorphins, extravagantly-surplus-lush Upstairs (in [the] end without end -Saint Augustine) when my o-so-beautifull, brilliant, bombastic girly passed-away due to those wry, sardonic satires.

"Those who are wise will shine as brightly as the expanse of the Heavens, and those who have instructed many in uprightousness as bright as stars for all eternity" -Daniel 12:3, NJB

Here's also what the prolific, exquisite GODy sed: 'the more you shall honor Me, the more I shall bless you' -the Infant Jesus of Prague.

Go gitt'm, girl. You're incredible. See you Upstairs. I won't be joining'm in the nasty Abyss where retarded Isis prowls
thesuperseedoftime.blogspot.com
infowars.com
-YOUTHwitheTRUTH
-------------------------------
PS Need summore unique, uncivilized, useless names? Lemme gonna gitcha started, brudda:

Oak Woods, Franky Sparks, Athena Noble, Autumn Rose, Faith Bishop, Dolly Martin, Willow Rhodes, Cocoa Major, Roman Stone, Bullwark Burnhart, Magnus Wilde, Kardiak Arrest, Will Wright, Goldy Silvers, Penelope Summers, Sophie Sharp, Violet Snow, Lizzy Roach, BoxxaRoxx, Aunty Dotey, Romero Stark, Zacharia Neptoo, Mercurio Morrissey, Fritz & Felix Franz, Victor Payne, Isabella Silverstein, Mercedes Kennedy, Redding Rust, Phoenix Martini, Ivy Squire, Sauer Wolfe, Yankee Cooky, -blessed b9 ...shake well B4 use!

God blessa youse
(trust-N-Jesus)
-Fr. Sarducci, ol SNL