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Outline it for me, please

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i did a blog post on outlining if you're interested: http://christinafarley.blogspot.com/2009/11/outlining.html
#31 - January 01, 2010, 06:45 AM
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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...
#32 - January 02, 2010, 09:22 AM

laura pauling

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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.
#33 - January 02, 2010, 09:31 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
#34 - January 02, 2010, 09:56 AM
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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.
#35 - January 02, 2010, 09:57 AM
PAINLESS (Albert Whitman 2015)
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Shirley - I think you can get butcher paper at Michael's Arts & Crafts.
#36 - January 02, 2010, 10:09 AM
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Thanks!
#37 - January 02, 2010, 10:15 AM
PAINLESS (Albert Whitman 2015)
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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
#38 - January 02, 2010, 10:39 AM
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Thanks, Christy! I bookmarked your blog. Your method is going to be very helpful to me.

#39 - January 02, 2010, 10:43 AM
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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!
#40 - January 02, 2010, 10:49 AM
Beyond Suspicion, YA Mystery, Poisoned Pen Press, 2015
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Glad to help!
#41 - January 03, 2010, 09:09 AM
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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
#42 - January 03, 2010, 12:24 PM
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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
#43 - May 04, 2010, 02:09 PM

DebL

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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
#44 - May 07, 2010, 09:20 AM

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I've been using Chasing My Tail's 9 Box method. I"m really glad this topic popped back up.
#45 - July 11, 2010, 06:49 AM
Making metaphors out of molehills for over thirty years.

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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. 
#46 - July 11, 2010, 06:56 AM
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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.
#47 - July 11, 2010, 05:55 PM

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I just wanted to join the ranks of writers saying thank you for contributors' generous and incredibly helpful insights.
#48 - July 12, 2010, 04:28 PM
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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

#49 - July 13, 2010, 05:37 AM
Stacy Barnett Mozer
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Ladyeclectic

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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!!
#50 - May 05, 2011, 11:59 AM

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Once again .. this thread has saved my rear end. I am so thankful it's easy to find. Yeah, I finally bookmarked it. :)
#51 - August 24, 2011, 07:08 PM
Making metaphors out of molehills for over thirty years.

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!
#52 - September 09, 2011, 09:22 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.
#53 - January 09, 2014, 09:48 PM

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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. 
#54 - March 13, 2014, 04:44 PM
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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
#55 - March 13, 2014, 05:07 PM
TEN EASTER EGGS (Cartwheel/Scholastic, 2015)
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Author of over 40 books and 60 magazine pieces

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!
#56 - March 13, 2014, 05:43 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!
#57 - March 27, 2014, 09:13 PM

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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.
#58 - April 16, 2014, 10:34 AM
« Last Edit: April 16, 2014, 11:08 AM by thinkpink »

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



#59 - April 17, 2014, 12:00 PM

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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.
#60 - April 19, 2014, 03:45 PM

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