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Tuesday, January 23, 2007

To Outline or Not to Outline?

Spoiler Alert!! The outlines below are my working
outlines from Rise of the Wyrm Lord and The Final Storm.

I began The Door Within in 1992. Granted, I had a lot of life going on--married, four kids, graduate degree, leading a Bible study, full time teaching, etc. But still, it took 13 years to complete the Door Within manuscript. THIRTEEN YEARS. I'm convinced that one of the main factors was my approach. I kind of wrote stream of consciousness, i.e., as the muse strikes. I had a general idea of what I wanted to happen, and day after day, I sat there and let it come.

I won't ever write that way again.

When TN contracted me for a trilogy, I had to crank out two more books in a hurry. The Rise of the Wyrm Lord took me @5 months. The Final Storm, @6months. I outlined them both meticulously. Isle of Swords, I finished in 4 months. I spent close to a month outlining it. For me, that's what works. How about you? Do you outline or do you wait for the muse--or do you have some other way that works?

Now, about the outlines above:

Top Outline: This is my initial outline for Rise of the Wyrm Lord. Each block or two equals a proposed chapter.

Middle Outline: Same organizer (based on moviemaker's storyboard), but note that this outline is composed of scenes within a chapter. Each box or two composes a scene within the chapter.

Last Outline: This is the first outline for The Final Storm. Note the boxes that I have violently scrawled NO, NO, NO all over. LOL I was totally exasperated by this turn of events. But, at least it didn't take me 3 months of manuscript to figure that out. ;-)


Star Jewel said...

Wow, I could never outline like that! I tend to just write whatever comes into my head without an outline, or if I do write one it's a little scetchy thing just naming the main events in the story.

(Maybe that's why you have books published and I don't!) :-)

Todd said...

I do a combo of SOTP and Outlining. I usually know the end of my story first. I write it and then begin to figure out what I need to do to get there and how far back I need to begin. I'll writer a few beginning scenes and then in a separate document. I'll write out one sentence summaries of the scenes, including the ending that I've written. Put a space between the opening scenes and the ones for the ending. Then I start writing one sentence summaries of what I think would be good ideas for scenes to bridge the gap.

You'd asked where you could see some of my writing. At present, I'm unpublished. I'd be happy to send you a sample of what I do. I've joined your The Door Within email list. Once you get that email address contact me there and I'll send you something.

Will that work for you? :-)

Thanks for your interest in my work.

Leathel Grody said...

Do you stick with your outlines all the way through the writing process?

I outline and ensure I know where I am starting and where I am ending, but I find sometimes the characters end up taking paths that I hadn't originally planned for them :-)

Becky said...

I use a combination of SOTP writing and outlining as well. James Bell in his fine book on plotting talks about the "flashlight" approach, and that's what I do. I know my destination but only outline a small chunk. After I write that, then I need to see a little further ahead, so I stop and outline that. It really works, because surprising things do crop up. Sometimes I put a character in a position and the way out brings in a new line that I hadn't anticipated when I started that section.

I write as a problem solver--how do I get from point A to point B in an unexpected, fresh, creative, exciting, suspenseful way.

I love to write! ;-)


Todd said...

Just remembered. You had asked me previously if I knew J. A. Konrath. I wouldn't that I know him. We've exchanged some emails since he became my friend on MySpace and his joined my writing group over there. I do plan to get to know him better. As well as all my other writer friends there. Some of whom I really do know outside of MySpace.

WayneThomasBatson said...

StarJ: In 1991, I would totally agree--outlining just seemed confining. Extra work I didn't need. But my personality is like ADD mixed with Full Throttle and a Jolt Cola chaser. I found that my plots meandered, I'd get sidetracked with different stories, and the process took FOREVER. I know we all have our methods, so I can't say that outlining will work for you. But I know it saved my bacon.

Todd: Interesting twist. Begin with the end in mind, eh? That must be kind of fun, figuring out do I get to this conclusion?

And I'd love to read some of your stuff. Got a short story or a chapter you want to send my way? Send it to my email. The Door Within Site email list is run by the publisher, and well…I don't always get those right away. ;-)

Leathel: I do follow the basic structure of the outline, BUT like you say, the characters have a way of going off in their own directions. I love that, and certainly I allow it. SO far what usually happens is, I'll outline for 40 chapters. Of that about 30 chapters happen more or less according to plan. 10 chapters change due to those pesky characters, and I usually add about 5-10 additional chapters! HA, that's why I always end up over my word count.

Star Jewel said...

Well, my characters do tend to take off with themselves and leave me behind in the dust, but oh well, I've got plenty of time to make mistakes.

What does SOTP mean? (sorry, I know I'm clueless...)