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Writing, Illustrating & Publishing => Upcoming Education & Writer Events => Topic started by: elissacruz on January 05, 2009, 05:48 PM

Title: Outline it for me, please
Post by: elissacruz on January 05, 2009, 05:48 PM
Outline.  It's a foreign word to me.  Most of the time my first draft IS my outline. 

But I would honestly like to learn how some of you go about outlining your novels (BEFORE you write the book, that is).  What techniques have you used?  What do your outlines look like?  Are they sparse one-pagers or more like detailed novellas?  Do you write some scenes and leave [INSERT SCENE X HERE] tags everywhere? Do you start at the beginning and work chronologically until you reach the end?  Do you take copious amounts of notes and then rearrange until a plot appears?  Or is the outline only in your head?


[Edited to actually spell the title correctly!]
Title: Re: Outline if for me, please
Post by: Verla Kay on January 06, 2009, 07:36 AM
I outlined the first novel I attempted to write. (I wrote it. My agent won't sell it. Apparently it's not ready yet. :( )

When writing the outline, I thought about the story and wrote one short sentence detailing the major point of each scene/chapter. In my book, orphan Holly lives with her aunt, who hates men and won't allow her to date boys.  Here's an example of the first couple of chapter outlines for this story:

Backstory: 
The rape.

June, 1989:
Holly prepares to sneak out on a blind date with her best friend's cousin.
Holly's best friend convinces her cousin, Donn, to take Holly to a party.
Holly and Donn meet for the first time.
The blind date.

etc.

The outline should just be a trigger about what you will write for each part of the book. Don't write scenes. Don't put in details. Don't WRITE any of the story.  Just lay down the "bones" for where your story will go and what you will tell readers in the story.

NOTE:  While writing the outline, full blown scenes may pop into your mind. If they do, write them down immediately!  Just do it on a separate page -- NOT in the outline.  You can insert those scenes into the book later.
Title: Re: Outline if for me, please
Post by: Lill on January 06, 2009, 09:18 AM
I also do a sentence outline, writing just a few sentences per chapter, usually summing up the major scenes. This is a guideline, and probably 65% or more of what is outlined is never used. It's like a map to the main road .. even if I do end up veering off a more interesting side path.

But if outlining is not your thing ... don't force yourself into it. It can take awhile, but eventually you will figure out your own writing process. You can try different methods/suggestions ... but do what works for you.
Title: Re: Outline if for me, please
Post by: Hélène Boudreau on January 06, 2009, 10:38 AM
I'm not sure if what I do is outline but I do start off with a loose framework when starting off a novel. I don't typically do it as a one pager, rather, I set up my Word document through the 'Document Map' function and build out the story from there. I know that my story will follow this typical flow:

Inciting incident (The big problem)
Plot Point 1
Plot Point 2
Plot Point 3
Climax A(lighting the fuse)
Climax B (watching it burn)
Climax C (kaboom!)
Denouement
Resolution

So I set up my Chapter Headers and add a few lines under each to keep track of what may happen where. I've attached a screen shot so you can see what that looks like

Chapter 1: Inciting incident: you may want to name your chapters to keep straight
   Write a few sentences about the character’s big problem
Chapter 2: and then what happened…
   Write a few sentences about what happens next
Chapter 3: and then what happened…
   Blah, blah, blah
Chapter 4: Plot Point 1:
   Write a few sentences about the first big obstacle/conflict
Chapter 5: and then what happened…
   Write a few sentences about what happens next
Chapter 6: and then what happened…
   Blah, blah, blah
Chapter 7: Plot Point 2:
   Write a few sentences about the second big obstacle/conflict/worse than the first
Chapter 8: 
   And then what happened?
Chapter 9: 
   Blah, blah, blah
Chapter 10: Plot Point 3:
   Write a few sentences about the third big obstacle/conflict/ worse than all three
Chapter 11: 
   You may go straight from  PP3 to the climax or there may be a building of tension/conflict to bring you there
Chapter 12:
   Blah, blah, blah…
Chapter 13: Climax A
   Lighting the fuse
Chapter 14: Climax B
   Watch it burn…
Chapter 15: Climax C              
Then kaboom!Write a few sentences about each stage of the climax
Chapter 16: Denouement
   Then what happens?
Chapter 17: Resolution
   Tie up any story threads

Setting all this up in a document map using the HEADER function really helps me navigate the document, both from the initial set up to get the outline down and while writing, since all I need to do is fill in the holes. It makes it easier to skip ahead if I get an idea for a specific scene and having the document laid out, I can pinpoint approximately where it should go within the overall pacing of the story.

This is a loose guide I use for myself. Chapters get added in, merged and taken out while writing, and my initial outline usually changes as new ideas spring up, but it’s the most efficient way I’ve found to both ‘outline’ my story, keep track of pacing and organize my scenes.

And now you all know how anal I am.  :whistle


[attachment deleted by admin]
Title: Re: Outline if for me, please
Post by: Vijaya on January 06, 2009, 11:07 AM
Helene, I love stuff that is neat and tidy.

Elissa, I tend to do a narrative outline before I actually write the novel -- it's a lot like how kids tell a story: and this happened, then that happened, which made Susie really mad so she did that, etc. And if a full blown scene comes into my head, I write it down. I want nothing to stop the flow of words.

After a first draft, I try to make a cleaner outline -- chapter by chapter summary because it helps me to be more organized.

I hope it helps.
Vijaya
Title: Re: Outline if for me, please
Post by: denise on January 06, 2009, 11:28 AM
My critique partner writes VERY full and detailed outlines. I've learned a lot from her, but my outlines still usually veer to the shorter side. I start with a logline (a one line hook about the main plot point I expect my book to be about). Then I usually expand it to more of a query blurb... where it will be set, who the main character will be and how their main obstacle will develop. From there, I usually come up with a fairly detailed plan of what the first couple of chapters will include and I also try to come up with a satisfying ending - even if just in vague form. The middle is really vague for me. I usually don't label chapter numbers and will have headings like "SUBPLOT A" which I don't actually know where I'll insert into the book until I start writing. Even though I love outlines, I'm still very much a free-spirit when it comes to writing. I like to leave a lot in there open to changes.

I've also blogged about my process if you're interested: http://baskinex.blogspot.com/2008/12/from-logline-to-outline.html (http://baskinex.blogspot.com/2008/12/from-logline-to-outline.html)

Denise
Title: Re: Outline if for me, please
Post by: Verla Kay on January 06, 2009, 08:02 PM
Great info, people.  Keep the ideas and comments coming.  This is definitely a thread worth reading!  I've made it "sticky" so it will stay at the top of the category. We'll probably move it into the Hall of Fame later so it will be easy to locate a year or two from now.
Title: Re: Outline if for me, please
Post by: Hélène Boudreau on January 06, 2009, 08:11 PM
A little more info on how to set up a DOCUMENT MAP:

As I’ve mentioned, I navigate my document with the document map by attributing a header style to all my Chapters which, in turn, designs my document map. The document map pane on the left hand side of my screen is always open and all I have to do is click on ‘Chapter 3′ let’s say, and it jumps to that area of the manuscript. Very useful, saves a lot of time, avoiding endless scrolling, and gives me a ‘global’ perspective on what could be a very long, unwieldy document.

To set it up, it takes a bit of fiddling and you may already have formatting in your WIP that will show up in the document map. (Check by clicking VIEW/DOCUMENT MAP)

If you want to experiment, save your WIP as a new document. (I don’t want to be responsible for screwing up your oeuvre, ack!)

Clearing all formatting will start you off fresh, but you’ll lose italics, double spacing and the works, so it’s easiest to start this from the get go. For an already existing WIP, hilight the areas where you’ve marked your chapters (i.e. Chapter One) and choose FORMAT/STYLES AND FORMATTING then choose a header style for your chapters. Once you do this for every chapter, it will map it out in the document map and you can take a look at VIEW/DOCUMENT MAP to see what yours looks like.

If you have a bunch of other stuff showing up, I think there’s a way to filter your document map so you only see the header style that you’ve chosen for your chapters, thereby ‘hiding’ the other stuff, but I haven’t looked into that.

I hope I haven’t confused anyone and hope this is helpful. Let me know if you try it out!

I've blogged about it here:

http://www.heleneboudreau.com/?p=533 (http://www.heleneboudreau.com/?p=533)
Title: Re: Outline if for me, please
Post by: elissacruz on January 07, 2009, 11:12 AM
Oh, Helene, I think you may have converted me to outlines.  Yours looks FANTASTIC!

I never knew about the document map feature.  Thanks for sharing.  I'm going to have to try that one right now.
Title: Re: Outline if for me, please
Post by: Hélène Boudreau on January 07, 2009, 01:27 PM
Oh, Helene, I think you may have converted me to outlines.  Yours looks FANTASTIC!

I never knew about the document map feature.  Thanks for sharing.  I'm going to have to try that one right now.

Yay! Let me know how it works out for you.  :smile
Title: Re: Outline it for me, please
Post by: Deb Cushman on January 09, 2009, 10:35 AM
I realize now that I've never used the Document Map feature to its full advantage. Thanks for this information. :broccoli
Title: Re: Outline it for me, please
Post by: Amaris Glass on January 10, 2009, 08:19 PM
Okay, Helene, thanks for the document map tips--I am on my way right now to figure out how to use it to glorious and awesomely profitable advantage--, but first, 'The stack of napkins in my underwear...'? I have to know where that sentence is going.
Title: Re: Outline it for me, please
Post by: Hélène Boudreau on January 11, 2009, 06:31 AM
Okay, Helene, thanks for the document map tips--I am on my way right now to figure out how to use it to glorious and awesomely profitable advantage--, but first, 'The stack of napkins in my underwear...'? I have to know where that sentence is going.

Heehee! Let's just say, my MC is having a bad day.

FYI for anyone who's interested, I blogged about how something like The Three Little Pigs would fit into my process. Of course, TTLP is not a novel length story and wouldn’t fit into chapters this way, but stay with me for a sec.   :

Chapter 1: Inciting incident
   The three little pigs get kicked out of the house by their parents and told to go make their mark on the world.

Chapter 2: and then what happened…

   They go off on their merry way.

Chapter 3: and then what happened…

   To make their mark on the world.

Chapter 4: Plot Point 1:  

   The First Little Pig makes his house out of straw.

Chapter 5: and then what happened…

    The wolf shows up.

Chapter 6: and then what happened…

   He huffs and he puffs and blows the house down. The first little pig runs to his brother’s house.

Chapter 7: Plot Point 2:  
   The Second Little Pig makes his house of sticks.

Chapter 8: And then what happened?

   The wolf shows up.

Chapter 9: And then what happened?
   He huffs and he puffs and blows the house down. The first and second little pigs run to their brother’s house.

Chapter 10: Plot Point 3:  

   The Third Little Pig builds his house out of bricks

Chapter 11: And then what happened?

   The wolf shows up.

Chapter 12: And then what happened?

   He huffs and he puffs but the house will NOT GO DOWN.

Chapter 13: Climax A  
   The wolf is furious. The pigs are nervous. (the fuse is lit!)

Chapter 14: Climax B

   The wolf keeps huffing and puffing. The pigs build a fire. (watch it burn!)

Chapter 15: Climax C         
     
   The wolf goes crazy cause he can’t blow the house down! He climbs on the roof and goes down the chimney and falls in the fire….(Then kaboom!)

Chapter 16: Denouement

   The wolf runs away, the pigs are safe.

Chapter 17: Resolution

   They all live happily ever after.

A critique friend mentioned that my outline is reminiscent of The Hero's Journey but I need to read up on it to see. I also use The Rule of Three a lot in my writing. Imagine if there were only two pigs. The level of tension would just not be the same. We just wouldn’t be as invested in them as characters because they would have succeeded too quickly without having struggled enough.

If there were four pigs, I think the story arc would drag on for too long, making us wonder ‘What the heck is wrong with these pigs? Don’t they ever learn?”

So. The Rule of Three.

Do you use it in your writing? Anyone else have thoughts on The Hero's Journey?


Title: Re: Outline it for me, please
Post by: Word on January 11, 2009, 06:58 AM
I'm a rule of three girl as well and I find that it works for me and the types of stories I do.  I don't know why it works - possibly it's a human nature thing.  We're comfortable with three in society.  i.e.  three strikes and your out.  Which leads me to wondering...what other "three's" are out there?  Why do feel comfortable with three?

1.  Three strikes.
2.  (For the religious minded - 'the big three - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit'
3.  Three utencils - spoon, fork, knife
4.  Beginning, middle, end
5.  Simple math equations (x + y = z)

Hmmm.  Anyone want to add to the list?

Word
Title: Re: Outline it for me, please
Post by: elissacruz on January 11, 2009, 05:29 PM
Who knew TTLP could be so exciting!

I use the Rule of Three ALL the time.  But I've never thought about how it would make outlining easier.  I'm going to have to give this one a try...on my next book.  My WIP, I'm sorry to say, is a complete mystery to me and is unfolding as I write.  I have no idea what will happen when I sit down to write next.  But you can be certain that once I get to the end, I'll be going back to make sure it follows this formula! 
Title: Re: Outline it for me, please
Post by: chasing my tail on February 06, 2009, 01:50 AM
Lydap posted this 9-point outlining scheme over in mid-grade awhile back (2006, I think?), and it has completely changed the way I brainstorm and outline my books. It is sooooo helpful!

I hope no one minds that I've copied and pasted it here -- if so, feel free to do what you need to do with this post  :eeyore

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
9 Steps for Plotting Fiction
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Start with a piece of paper. It should be large enough to write on.
8.5 x 11 is perfect. Draw two parallel lines both vertically and
horizontally across the page, creating 9 comparable boxes, as if you
were starting a game of tic-tac-toe. These boxes represent chapters,
scenes, or sections, depending upon your book's intended length.

Number the boxes, starting from the upper left: 1, 2, 3.
Next row, starting from the left: 4, 5, 6.
Last row: 7, 8, 9.
Title each box…

1 Triggering event

First thing's first. What happens? Why have you bothered to write a
book, and more importantly, why should a reader invest time flipping
through its pages. Your triggering event is the answer to those
questions, so make it a good one. Also, don't make the reader wait
very long for it. First page, first paragraph, first sentence.
These are good spots for a triggering event.

2 Characterization

Generally, books succeed or fail on the strength of their characters
more so than on the strength of their plots. The second box is where
you explore what makes your protagonist tick. No, this isn't an
excuse for drawn out exposition, history, or back story. If your
triggering event is captivating, the reader will discover enough
about the protagonist in Box Two simply by reading how he or she
reacts to the event.

3 First major turning point

By now, your plot is picking up steam, and because of Box Two, the
reader is invested in the ride. Time to throw a curve ball. This
turning point can be either a positive event for your protagonist,
or a negative one, but it should lay the groundwork for the negative
turning point in the sixth square. There is a reason these boxes are
touching one another; they interrelate. For example, Box Three may
introduce the motivation of the antagonist, which then justifies the
events in the sixth square.

4 Exposition

You've earned some time to fill the reader in on important data.
Since this box touches the first square, here's where you shed some
light on that triggering event. Since it also touches Box Seven, you
get to foreshadow your pro-tagonist's darkest hour. Box Four often
reveals a relationship, character flaw, or personal history that
contributes to the dark times in ahead.

5 Connect the dots

Here is where many plots fall apart. Box Five represents the
trickiest part of fiction and since Box Five is the center of the
book it must connect to all the squares around it. Kind of like the
nucleus at the center of a bomb, Box Five should tick systematically
upon elements introduced in Box Two and Four. And like the calm
before the storm, the fifth square should give the false impression
of resolution before heading like a freight train to Box Six. Most
importantly, it needs to provide foreshadowing for the protagonist's
revelation in Box Eight. That's a lot for a little box to do, but
focus on efficient prose to get it right. Your plot depends upon it.

6 Negative turning point

Here's where that bomb explodes and all (word censored) breaks loose. Good
thing you laid the groundwork in Box Three. Good thing, too, that
Box Nine will deliver some just desserts.

7 Antagonist wins

The protagonist is defeated here, and the antagonist apparently
wins. How the protagonist deals with the darkest hour of defeat
depend upon the traits and/or story developed in Box Four, which
leads to his or her revelation in the next square.

8 Revelation

Of course! The protagonist's revelation turns the tide. Here is
where the protagonist connects the dots and overcomes the obstacles
of Boxes Six and Seven via the device introduced in Box Five.

9 Protagonist wins

The negative turning point in Box Six is rectified while the
character's resolve from Box Eight is brought into full bloom.
Congratulations! Another great tale told greatly.

Title: Re: Outline it for me, please
Post by: sarah_create on February 06, 2009, 03:35 AM
Wow. I love these suggestions.

I can't figure out the document map. It looks useful.
I use Word for Mac.
There is a VIEW but no DOCUMENT MAP underneath when I click VIEW.
There is a FORMAT but no STYLES AND FORMATTING choice. There is a style choice--but it is for setting up paragraph styles.
Am I looking in the wrong place, or do I have a different version of word. Any ideas of where I should look. (I put in Document Map under word help and it came up with nothing.)

I find I outline beforehand for shorter works than novels. Most of this is very informal--just notes written down, the major plot points.
I create a more detailed outline for my novels after I've finished the first draft.
Title: Re: Outline it for me, please
Post by: elissacruz on February 06, 2009, 12:36 PM
Quote
Lydap posted this 9-point outlining scheme over in mid-grade awhile back (2006, I think?), and it has completely changed the way I brainstorm and outline my books. It is sooooo helpful!

I hope no one minds that I've copied and pasted it here -- if so, feel free to do what you need to do with this post

Wow.

Thank you for reposting this!  I am so excited to get to work!
Title: Re: Outline it for me, please
Post by: Ann Gatti on February 07, 2009, 05:59 PM
I have a weird habit on reading that I have carried out to my writing.  I read the end of a book first, therefore when I write I can help myself to start at the end.  This forces me to outline because I need to know where it begins.  Weird I know but I can't help myself.  What I do is I write (longhand, no inspiration in the computer) the ideas as they come along and then I arrange them into chapters.  I still use index cards for this.  Archaic method but one that still works for me.   For some reason I'm a very visual person so I need to roll the characters in my head, imagine and play with them for a while before I come up with the complete story.  Once I'm done I usually outline the chapters of what I'm writing with a detail of what's going to happen.     
Title: Re: Outline it for me, please
Post by: chasing my tail on February 08, 2009, 12:12 PM
Wow.

Thank you for reposting this!  I am so excited to get to work!

Glad to be of help -- her post definitely helped me quite a bit! It made me really think through the order of things that I knew needed to happen.
Title: Re: Outline it for me, please
Post by: AnneWritesYA on March 03, 2009, 06:16 AM
This is an excellent thread! :thankyou
I use the Document Map but not for outlining (thanks for the tip, Helene!) In my Document heading, I'll have ChapterX (blurb of what happens or what I want to happen). Make revisions easier because I can zip between scenes w/o scanning over chapters.

For capturing and thinking through the story 'flow' I use Post-Its and story board it. A story board is a poster board with twenty blocks - one per chapter. The main plot has one Post-It color and each subplot has their own Post-It colors. If a certain section seems flat, moving the Post-Its to different boxes- if X happens before Y does that heighten Z type of thing - and playing the what-if game, all help in pulling the story together. At least for me ;)
Title: Re: Outline it for me, please
Post by: AnneN on March 03, 2009, 08:38 AM
As an obsessive pre-planner and outliner, I love this thread!
 :thankyou

I use two different Exotic Physical Planning-Aid Objects as I'm getting a story into shape:

EPPO #1:  a pack of notecards, preferably in their neat little cardboard package so they don't spill.  I carry them with me everywhere I go, and whenever I have ANY idea about the book (whether a plot point, an important bit of backstory, a clever phrase someone can say, how so-and-so feels about frogs -- whatever) I write it on a card and put it into the deck, roughly in order.  Cards are great because they can be shifted around -- even on the floor, when necessary.

EPPO #2:  a notebook, where I do two kinds of work -- research and outlining.  I work out a chapter breakdown on a page, starting with the number of chapters I want the book to have and then filling in what happens in those chapters as my notecard deck expands.  The chapter breakdown uses some of the plotting rules you guys have mentioned, but not by those names!  I just try to make sure something exciting is happening in every chapter.

So that's my low-tech procedure!  The physicality of actual notecards and actual paper helps me think outside the box, I guess.  (Plus I can work with them ANYWHERE -- the bus, the plane, boring lectures . . . . . :) )
Title: Re: Outline it for me, please
Post by: mkl1025 on March 12, 2009, 07:46 AM
Wow, Helene! That is awesome! This post is just what I need as I'm beginning to plot my next book. I'm definitely going to print out this whole thread.

I've never used an outline before, so we'll see if it makes revisions any easier!
Title: Re: Outline it for me, please
Post by: Michelle DP on March 12, 2009, 10:24 AM
Helene, thanks for the outline and telling me about doc map. I was having trouble working one of my subplots into the major plotline, but after I mapped it out I was able to see where it needed to go. I am more excited about this story now than I've been in a long time.
Title: Re: Outline it for me, please
Post by: Carrie on March 12, 2009, 01:01 PM
I've outlined four different ways, one for each of the manuscripts I've written.

1. I write down a list of scenes that I think will/want to happen. I go through them and find how each of those scenes can either lead to another scene, or stem from a scene. I do this until I have a story that makes sense. I list the scenes in an Excel spreadsheet that has columns for word and page count, POV character, and a brief mention of why the scene is important/how it changes or pushes the story forward.

2. Plan by acts. I know that I want four acts (a lot of people like three), and that each act is structured like a mini-novel--there's an inciting incident, a turning point leading to rising action, a climax, and then resolution. The difference is that the climax and resolution set up further conflicts for the next acts, so that the resolution will really just be a major turning point that sends the story in the next direction (does that make sense? maybe?). For the first act, I make a list of everything that needs to happen--characters who should be introduced, plot threads that need to be set up, etc. Then I figure out how those things will happen and how they can lead to plot points for the second act. For the second act, I build on and intensify the things that happened in the first act, and treat it like it's own mini-novel. And so on and so forth. The important thing, for me, when I outline like this, is that each major turning point (they always occur at the end of an act) in some way leads to the next major turning point. They're cause-and-effect and can be directly linked from one to another.

I hope some of that made sense.

3. Tell the story to myself. This is just like it sounds. I open up a document, and start telling myself the story. It's almost like writing a synopsis--there are no real scenes, just a description of things that happen. It's completely unstructured (and probably my favorite way to outline). After I've told the story, I go in and structure it and move things around if need be.

4. My first draft IS the outline. A 50K+word one. :)

I'm not a person who has a problem with telling myself the story first--I know a lot of people who, once they know what's going to happen lose enthusiasm--so those work fine for me. And honestly, I have not once followed my outlines exactly.
Title: Re: Outline it for me, please
Post by: Christy on April 19, 2009, 09:23 PM
Just saw this thread and its great! Thanks for everyone's thoughts and ideas.
Title: Re: Outline it for me, please
Post by: SarahE on April 20, 2009, 10:48 PM
Brilliant thread! This is really going to help me get my plot points in order and keep the tension building throughout the story.


Thank you for reposting this!  I am so excited to get to work!

AGREED!

Thanks so much everyone!  :chickendance
Title: Re: Outline it for me, please
Post by: AV on April 26, 2009, 07:20 AM
Helene B, excellent outlining tip -- thank you!

sarah_create, I use Word for Mac, too, and couldn't find the document map at first. It took me a while, it's hidden deeper than just view to document map in Word 2008 for Mac.

If you're in Word 2008, go to: View-->Customize toolbars-->Command-->All commands-->Navigation tool, to put it on your toolbar. Then click on the navigation tool icon and a sidebar will open to the left of your document. You'll have two choice from a drop-down menu on the top of the sidebar: Thumbnails or Document Map. Click on Document Map and your ready to go. Hope this helps!

Andrea
Title: Re: Outline it for me, please
Post by: macdibble on May 18, 2009, 02:46 AM
I don't think you need to panic if outline is a foreign concept.

There are those of us who believe that the act of telling the story, whether it be writing it in full, or outlining it verbally to a friend is the thing we are compelled to do and once it is released... so is the compulsion to tell the story.  Naturally after the telling, it is far better to have a wad of paper with a full story on it than a rough outline or a friend who wanders off and forgets the story instantly.

Basically, we're writers and we have a strong sense of story telling, so we're going to hit naturally on all the important things like hooks, compelling events, characterisation, twists and turns.  You have to trust that will happen as you let the story unfold.

To plan the story in advance seems to me to run the risk of writing a story to a standard.  Mind you... I have a drawer full of very unusual manuscripts that don't seem to fit any submission guidelines so perhaps I should be outlining to be more in tune with what publishers want.  I find I'm always scrunching and stretching as I try to drive my round pegs into square holes later, so applying planning in retrospect, isn't always a good thing.
Title: Re: Outline it for me, please
Post by: SHRous on December 31, 2009, 06:55 AM
My outline is a little more basic.  I list the major things the MC needs to face. As I start writing, I begin to see where they should go and place them tentatively under that chapter heading.  As I get closer to that chapter, I know more things that need to happen or must be said, etc.  I put a stream of consciousness type of paragraph in that chapter.

Example from Troll Quest (WIP)
trolls continue arguing then hear noises from behind, above, beside them Nodrog is convinced it is a dwarf while Noskaj believes it is something less dangerous so he walks ahead of Nodrog suddenly they find themselves surrounded by the queen's guard spears bow and arrows marched into the deepest part of the forest until they arrive at the city of the pixies  Nodrog is convinced they have failed in their quest and they are going to die
Title: Re: Outline it for me, please
Post by: Christy on January 01, 2010, 06:45 AM
i did a blog post on outlining if you're interested: http://christinafarley.blogspot.com/2009/11/outlining.html
Title: Re: Outline it for me, please
Post by: SukiGirl on January 02, 2010, 09:22 AM
So, are outlines something that *every* writers uses for their stories?

I have to ask, because the story that I'm needing critiquing on was written rather differently - it was more taking notes on a series of situations that happened, and then just sitting down and typing as the story came out my fingertips...
Title: Re: Outline it for me, please
Post by: laura pauling on January 02, 2010, 09:31 AM
First, you have a totally cute blog. Second, you are a super outliner. I come across them here and there. I am a definite plotter and planner but I haven't gotten to the grid and post it notes yet.
Title: Re: Outline it for me, please
Post by: Christy on January 02, 2010, 09:56 AM
Thanks Laura (blushing  :embarrassed2)! I have learned to outline because my life is super busy so if I have a few moments to write, I refer to it and can jump off from there. But that said, my stories often take a mind of their own and I don't think of myself as having to follow the outline. It's mainly to help me get through writer's block or when I'm stuck. Plus I'm the type of person who imagines the whole story in my head and then writes it.

SukiGirl- Many writers don't outline and find it inhibits their creativity. If you do outline, don't let it rule your writing but it's really helpful to know where you're going and makes that first draft a lot more focused. So I say, do what works for you. Everyone is so different and that's the magic of writing!  :star2 :star2 :star2
Title: Re: Outline it for me, please
Post by: ShirleyH on January 02, 2010, 09:57 AM
SukiGirl--I outline after I write the draft.

Silly question-- Where do you get butcher paper? I would like to see everything at once.

My outline right now consists of a scene title, setting/day, point (or goal) of the scene, comments, and character arc.  I love the idea of using different colored sticky notes.
Title: Re: Outline it for me, please
Post by: Juliarts2003@yahoo.com on January 02, 2010, 10:09 AM
Shirley - I think you can get butcher paper at Michael's Arts & Crafts.
Title: Re: Outline it for me, please
Post by: ShirleyH on January 02, 2010, 10:15 AM
Thanks!
Title: Re: Outline it for me, please
Post by: Christy on January 02, 2010, 10:39 AM
Shirley- I don't know since I'm a teacher and we have plenty of it at the school. Maybe an office supply place? BTW, I finished your book a couple of weeks ago and LOVED it. Beautifully written. You hooked me from the first line.  :reading2
Title: Re: Outline it for me, please
Post by: ShirleyH on January 02, 2010, 10:43 AM
Thanks, Christy! I bookmarked your blog. Your method is going to be very helpful to me.

Title: Re: Outline it for me, please
Post by: Cathie on January 02, 2010, 10:49 AM
Christy, love the way you outline! I'm going to have to try that method. Right now I print out 5 blank columns (one column for each chapter) on regular paper and pencil in the chapter notes. I hole punch them and put them in the looseleaf binder for that book. With your method it would be much easier moving things around or changing them than flipping pages, erasing, and color coding. Thanks for sharing!
Title: Re: Outline it for me, please
Post by: Christy on January 03, 2010, 09:09 AM
Glad to help!
Title: Re: Outline it for me, please
Post by: Marissa Doyle on January 03, 2010, 12:24 PM
So, are outlines something that *every* writers uses for their stories?

I have to ask, because the story that I'm needing critiquing on was written rather differently - it was more taking notes on a series of situations that happened, and then just sitting down and typing as the story came out my fingertips...


Check out this thread, Sukigirl--it might answer your question:
http://www.verlakay.com/boards/index.php?topic=40533.0
Title: Re: Outline it for me, please
Post by: madameduck on May 04, 2010, 02:09 PM
I don't really outline, but I'm only on my first WIP, so I'm no expert!!!

What I DID do, though, to keep track of things was to take over a wall in my livingroom (my boyfriend just LOVES it.  hehe), where I've posted a bazillion index cards with point by point character sketches on them into a few family trees.  There's also a few timelines, also made of index cards so I can move them around if/when I need to.  I need to be able to see it all at once.  I like the spatial organization over just linear text.  My cards are even colour coded.  If you always write in the same place, it might work well!  Actually...I rarely write at home, where the index card wall is, but I still refer to it often so...it might work even if you are a cafe writer like me. :)

Don't know if that's helpful!  I'm not the most organized person out there. :)

AMC
Title: Re: Outline if for me, please
Post by: DebL on May 07, 2010, 09:20 AM
Thank you for this, Hélène!  :grouphug2

This is so similar to what I do...and yet so much more organized! I've created a template for myself in Scrivener using your suggested chapter headings. Nice! :typing

I'm not sure if what I do is outline but I do start off with a loose framework when starting off a novel. I don't typically do it as a one pager, rather, I set up my Word document through the 'Document Map' function and build out the story from there. I know that my story will follow this typical flow:

Inciting incident (The big problem)
Plot Point 1
Plot Point 2
Plot Point 3
Climax A(lighting the fuse)
Climax B (watching it burn)
Climax C (kaboom!)
Denouement
Resolution

So I set up my Chapter Headers and add a few lines under each to keep track of what may happen where. I've attached a screen shot so you can see what that looks like

Chapter 1: Inciting incident: you may want to name your chapters to keep straight
   Write a few sentences about the character’s big problem
Chapter 2: and then what happened…
   Write a few sentences about what happens next
Chapter 3: and then what happened…
   Blah, blah, blah
Chapter 4: Plot Point 1:
   Write a few sentences about the first big obstacle/conflict
Chapter 5: and then what happened…
   Write a few sentences about what happens next
Chapter 6: and then what happened…
   Blah, blah, blah
Chapter 7: Plot Point 2:
   Write a few sentences about the second big obstacle/conflict/worse than the first
Chapter 8: 
   And then what happened?
Chapter 9: 
   Blah, blah, blah
Chapter 10: Plot Point 3:
   Write a few sentences about the third big obstacle/conflict/ worse than all three
Chapter 11: 
   You may go straight from  PP3 to the climax or there may be a building of tension/conflict to bring you there
Chapter 12:
   Blah, blah, blah…
Chapter 13: Climax A
   Lighting the fuse
Chapter 14: Climax B
   Watch it burn…
Chapter 15: Climax C              
Then kaboom!Write a few sentences about each stage of the climax
Chapter 16: Denouement
   Then what happens?
Chapter 17: Resolution
   Tie up any story threads

Setting all this up in a document map using the HEADER function really helps me navigate the document, both from the initial set up to get the outline down and while writing, since all I need to do is fill in the holes. It makes it easier to skip ahead if I get an idea for a specific scene and having the document laid out, I can pinpoint approximately where it should go within the overall pacing of the story.

This is a loose guide I use for myself. Chapters get added in, merged and taken out while writing, and my initial outline usually changes as new ideas spring up, but it’s the most efficient way I’ve found to both ‘outline’ my story, keep track of pacing and organize my scenes.

And now you all know how anal I am.  :whistle
Title: Re: Outline it for me, please
Post by: Lill on July 11, 2010, 06:49 AM
I've been using Chasing My Tail's 9 Box method. I"m really glad this topic popped back up.
Title: Re: Outline it for me, please
Post by: mollymom103 on July 11, 2010, 06:56 AM
Hi, Elissa!  Hope you are having a good summer. :)  I outline a little differently.  I've thought long and hard about a book before I start writing it.  I build a document in Word with a document map and enter the number of chapters I think I'll need.  Then I write a paragraph summary for each chapter.  Maybe this will help. 
Title: Re: Outline it for me, please
Post by: elissacruz on July 11, 2010, 05:55 PM
MOLLY!  How are you?  I've been wondering how you've been!

Thanks for the outline help.  I'm still trying to find a system that works for me.  I'm just not much of an outliner, but I'm trying to do better.
Title: Re: Outline it for me, please
Post by: JulieM on July 12, 2010, 04:28 PM
I just wanted to join the ranks of writers saying thank you for contributors' generous and incredibly helpful insights.
Title: Re: Outline if for me, please
Post by: SMozer on July 13, 2010, 05:37 AM
I found this thread at the perfect moment since I am trying to outline my manuscript as we speak. Thanks everyone for sharing. Helene, your way of doing it really speaks to me. Thanks for posting it.

Best,
Stacy

I'm not sure if what I do is outline but I do start off with a loose framework when starting off a novel. I don't typically do it as a one pager, rather, I set up my Word document through the 'Document Map' function and build out the story from there. I know that my story will follow this typical flow:

Inciting incident (The big problem)
Plot Point 1
Plot Point 2
Plot Point 3
Climax A(lighting the fuse)
Climax B (watching it burn)
Climax C (kaboom!)
Denouement
Resolution

So I set up my Chapter Headers and add a few lines under each to keep track of what may happen where. I've attached a screen shot so you can see what that looks like

Chapter 1: Inciting incident: you may want to name your chapters to keep straight
   Write a few sentences about the character’s big problem
Chapter 2: and then what happened…
   Write a few sentences about what happens next
Chapter 3: and then what happened…
   Blah, blah, blah
Chapter 4: Plot Point 1:
   Write a few sentences about the first big obstacle/conflict
Chapter 5: and then what happened…
   Write a few sentences about what happens next
Chapter 6: and then what happened…
   Blah, blah, blah
Chapter 7: Plot Point 2:
   Write a few sentences about the second big obstacle/conflict/worse than the first
Chapter 8: 
   And then what happened?
Chapter 9: 
   Blah, blah, blah
Chapter 10: Plot Point 3:
   Write a few sentences about the third big obstacle/conflict/ worse than all three
Chapter 11: 
   You may go straight from  PP3 to the climax or there may be a building of tension/conflict to bring you there
Chapter 12:
   Blah, blah, blah…
Chapter 13: Climax A
   Lighting the fuse
Chapter 14: Climax B
   Watch it burn…
Chapter 15: Climax C              
Then kaboom!Write a few sentences about each stage of the climax
Chapter 16: Denouement
   Then what happens?
Chapter 17: Resolution
   Tie up any story threads

Setting all this up in a document map using the HEADER function really helps me navigate the document, both from the initial set up to get the outline down and while writing, since all I need to do is fill in the holes. It makes it easier to skip ahead if I get an idea for a specific scene and having the document laid out, I can pinpoint approximately where it should go within the overall pacing of the story.

This is a loose guide I use for myself. Chapters get added in, merged and taken out while writing, and my initial outline usually changes as new ideas spring up, but it’s the most efficient way I’ve found to both ‘outline’ my story, keep track of pacing and organize my scenes.

And now you all know how anal I am.  :whistle

Title: Re: Outline it for me, please
Post by: Ladyeclectic on May 05, 2011, 11:59 AM
I never got to post how much I loved the 9 Point Plot Outline but WOW has it ever come in handy for my latest story! It's kept me excited for this WIP in a way I don't remember ever being before - enough structure that I don't have to worry about what's coming next but more than enough leeway to figure things out as I go!! Plots have always been hard for me and that outline technique made things 1000x easier. Thank you so much!!
Title: Re: Outline it for me, please
Post by: Lill on August 24, 2011, 07:08 PM
Once again .. this thread has saved my rear end. I am so thankful it's easy to find. Yeah, I finally bookmarked it. :)
Title: Re: Outline it for me, please
Post by: elissacruz on September 09, 2011, 09:22 PM
I'm just bumping this thread again because I am attempting another outline (shoot me now!) and I have found the information here indispensable.  Thanks to everyone who answered my original questions about outlining, and thanks especially for step-by-step instructions.  I still appreciate it, even years later.

THANK YOU!
Title: Re: Outline it for me, please
Post by: SarahW on January 09, 2014, 09:48 PM
I usually do a scene by scene outline. I seperate each scene into seven sentences summarizing what happens. I try to make sure each scene concludes in a resolutive hook. (The purpose of the scene is complete, but leaves one hanging.)

The problem with this method is, I (at least use to) have a problem with ends.
Title: Re: Outline it for me, please
Post by: mollymom103 on March 13, 2014, 04:44 PM
Hi, Elissa, I think outlining became easier for me when I got a solid handle on story structure. I find certain elements are necessary for each story. It is useful to pick apart books you really know. Look at each chapter and ask :  "Why is this chapter in this book?" This repeated exercise helps me churn out efficient outlines with greater speed. 
Title: Re: Outline it for me, please
Post by: Vijaya on March 13, 2014, 05:07 PM
Elisa, hop on over to Writer Unboxed and read the posts by Lisa Cron. Very, very helpful.
Here you go: http://writerunboxed.com/author/lisacron/
Vijaya
Title: Re: Outline it for me, please
Post by: Ruth Donnelly on March 13, 2014, 05:43 PM
Great thread! I like to see everything visually on one sheet. My favorite approach is to diagram my story as explained in Andrea Sokoloff's Screenwriting Tricks for Authors. I take a sheet of paper held "landscape view" and divide it into 4 columns, then draw a horizontal line across the whole page halfway down, to make 8 sections. At the bottom of the first, second, and third columns I write the three main plot points. If I know the end, I write it at the bottom of the 4th column. I divide the 8 sections into chapters (I use 4 chapters or so per section; could be more or less) and jot down what will happen in each to get the character to a particular point in the story. For more details, check out Sokoloff's Screenwriting Tricks or Writing Love.


I usually start writing at that point, and tweak my diagram as needed.



Later in the process--either when I get stuck, or when revising-- I make what I call a "gasp" card for each chapter. I get a stack of index cards and write G - A - S - P down the lefthand side of each. Next to the letters, I briefly jot down the following:
G = Goal (what is my MC's goal at the start of that chapter)
A = Action (what action does she take toward her goal)
S = Setback (what stops her from succeeding--or if she does succeed, what new obstacle arises)
P = Problem (new problem that launches her into the next chapter)


I've tried other methods, and so far this one helps me the most with pacing and character arc. Love hearing about other people's process... keep the ideas coming!
Title: Re: Outline it for me, please
Post by: elissacruz on March 27, 2014, 09:13 PM
Ruth, I love your GASP idea!  I may have to try that one of these days.


Thanks again to all the new thoughts from everyone, too!
Title: Re: Outline it for me, please
Post by: thinkpink on April 16, 2014, 10:34 AM
Elissa, Did you go to the SCBWI Workshop with Cheryl Klein in SLC (when was it--Nov 2012?). Some of these ideas sound a lot like her book  map suggestions.


I usually end up doing a basic outline, then going back and adding things/changing it as I go along. The book map can help me make sure I don't have any major plot holes.
Title: Re: Outline it for me, please
Post by: elissacruz on April 17, 2014, 12:00 PM
I did!  I love using her book map idea, but I do so with a complete draft.



It's the outlining before I start writing that remains elusive.  :eh2   Though, in my defense, when I start a new book I do have a very rough idea of where I'm going.  That counts as an outline, right?  :ha ;D



Title: Re: Outline it for me, please
Post by: thinkpink on April 19, 2014, 03:45 PM
It counts. I figure as long as your ducks eventually get in their proper row, it doesn't matter if they wander a bit in the beginning.
Title: Re: Outline it for me, please
Post by: Mercedes Ortiz on September 02, 2015, 02:33 PM
My outlines are quite messy, Elissa. They are like some kind of letter, usually written by the main character, where all the most important scenes, plot twists and moments are briefly described.
Don't worry so much about following a chronological order, try writing first the scenes that are more vivid in your mind -and then you can begin to fill the gaps. But most of all, don't feel forced to outline at all -many great writers never do it.

Hugs and good luck! :)
Title: Re: Outline it for me, please
Post by: zoraida-rivera on September 02, 2015, 08:52 PM
Thanks for sharing. It looks wonderful. I'll be trying it with my next book. I used the book 90 Days to your novel by Sarah Domet to write my last novel. The 90 days were just a metaphor for me, but the book helped me plenty with the pre-writing and I felt free to write and change and search for the novel that was there, in the cave. I recommend the book highly. I sent my book to a contest and we shall see.  :flowers2

Title: Re: Outline it for me, please
Post by: Mercedes Ortiz on September 03, 2015, 08:41 AM
I'll keep my fingers crossed, Zoraida! Good luck with your book!
Title: Re: Outline it for me, please
Post by: zoraida-rivera on September 04, 2015, 09:43 PM
Thank you, Mercedes. If the answer is positive, I will surely let you know. I'm going to be thrilled!!!