Outlining Update

I promised to update my adventures in outlining in my last post, so here you go:

Wow, this outlining thing is difficult!

I’ve spent a lot of time with a notepad and a pencil jotting down ideas and the questions those ideas bring to mind.  Instead of starting into the story, I’m making myself contemplate different directions the story can take and evaluating them to see which would be best.  As of now, I do not have an outline, but I do have a much more developed idea than the seed that I began with.  A sprout, I guess you could call it.

I’ve been playing “What If?” in a much more formalized way than I’ve done it before.  One of my first writer friends, Suzie Quint, was the person who introduced me to “What If?”  Basically, it involves asking that question over and over.  It helps jog your brain to come up with answers that are in there, but don’t want to leap forth of their own accord.  You have to ask the question to get the answer.

So I now have a partially developed plot, which started its seed life as a short story idea and now has grown towards novel-length.  I have characters and a setting that didn’t exist in the beginning.  I have an idea of where I want the story to end.  It’s not where I’d hoped to be by now–I’d hoped to already have a fully realized outline and be ready to start writing–but it’s something, and it hasn’t hit a dead end yet.

How do you feel about outlining?  Is it a way of life for you, or is it more like pulling teeth?

2 thoughts on “Outlining Update

  1. Nice post, RebeccaFor me, outlining is somewhere in between. I love creating complex worlds / concepts, and so let them develop over time, both before and after writing drafts. But I have found I need to write towards specific plot points, otherwise I have my characters die a death of 1000 cuts, always exploring, reacting and complicating, never taking action or undergoing profound change. Furthermore, when I have outlined too much, I have ended up not wanting to write it because "I have already told the story".So recently (maybe until I can get on top of my weaknesses) my outlines have consisted of a list of concepts/world features/theme features I want in the story (some inter-related), and a separate list of the three key points in the plot – namely the point where the world changes for the MC, the point where the MC becomes proactive, and the point where the MC discovers the correct path to solution. There is plenty of room between these plot points (and after the last) to explore and prevent my subconscious mind closing me down after I have finished an outline. Yet there is also enough structure to remind me the about the different goals of each story phase, and to not indulge in any one phase too long.

  2. Thanks for the reply, Brendan.I really like your idea of having three key plot points you're aiming to hit and letting things develop organically on the journey between them.I tend to get caught up in thinking that an outline has to touch on every development that comes up and then I get overwhelmed, so that's a method that might work well for me.Thank you for sharing it!

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