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using an outline : Tips and Advice • Writing Forum | WritersDigest.com

using an outline

Here's the place to share a writing or marketing tip you've used successfully and want to pass along.
wishiwasinmaui
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using an outline

Postby wishiwasinmaui » Mon Apr 24, 2006 7:29 am


wishiwasinmaui
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using an outline

Postby wishiwasinmaui » Mon Apr 24, 2006 7:29 am

Hi – I’m looking for both tips and advice, so this seems like the best place to post my question! I’m fairly new to writing and have recently started my first novel. My characters are strong and I’ve managed to whip out 6 chapters, but now I’m finding that I need some direction. I’m writing a mystery and much of the actual plot is still a mystery to me (never a good sign!). I’ve never worked with an outline before, but I’m thinking of trying one now just to get my thoughts focused. I have LOTS of ideas, but I need to commit to some of them in order to crank this first draft out. I keep telling myself that I can go back and change everything later. I guess my question is for those of you who use outlines – how do you go about it? Do you work with one, or write more than one and use them as tools to find the best plot for your book? What kinds of questions should I be asking myself to strengthen my story?

Thanks for any and all help!

StrangerBaird
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Outlining from a sorry source...

Postby StrangerBaird » Mon Apr 24, 2006 8:39 am

For me, outlines are mostly pure drudgery; I write them and then I ignore them, with gratitude to my past self that I at least tried to think about it.... For my full novels I've started doing better. Sometimes I get so far and realize I need to make it more explicit for myself.
 Some ways of doing it (very straight ideas here; think grayish boring but essential ideas) I will share from what I've done, or tried to do.
Most often, I will make a sequence of events. I start off with certain scenes in my head for a project; once I've started it (usually I pretend I've finished something else and give myself permission to) I will try and fill out what happens around those.
Think about chapters; how many will there be? What will happen in each chapter?
Problem solving is another way of outlining. That is, you realize that the direction the narrative is taking, and the end you have in mind are developing beyond what you have forseen...and hold a long brainstorm session to figure out what happens now. (This happens oftener than I think it should in my writing; I'd like to pretend others also have that problem. So bear with me, any superior mortals who would like to contradict that way of outlining.)

One fun was of outlining are to do character sketches for your own benefit, with all the interpersonal aspects, their perceptions relating to their personalities...and kind of map out that way how what they are doing makes the story move.

Ultimately, a little of each element should take part of any pre-project (hopefully, not reliably) sketchings out. You know your characters, you know the beginning and hopefully something of the ending, you know what the stakes are, what must be solved (partially): outlining is just figuring out how to get there, in extensive form.
 

Jamesaritchie
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RE: using an outline

Postby Jamesaritchie » Mon Apr 24, 2006 4:57 pm

I hate outlines with a passion, and simply do not use them. But if you feel the need, I'd say keep it simply. If you believe your novel will have, say, thirty chapters, then write down the number one to thirty. Go to number thrity and write no more than three sentences telling how the novel will end.

Now go back to the chapter you need to write next, and do the same. After each number write no more than three sentences, and one sentence is even better, saying what will happen in that chapter. Now write the novel. Don't worry about length. You can reduce or fatten later.

wishiwasinmaui
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RE: using an outline

Postby wishiwasinmaui » Tue Apr 25, 2006 9:55 am

Thank you jamesaritchie and strangerbaird for your comments! I think I may have used the term “outline” a little loosely. I’ve done a little poking around online since and found that outlines can be serious stuff! Who knew that there are people out there who write 40 page outlines before writing their novel?!

I really don’t want something that breaks down everything by chapter; I think that would kill my creativity! I just want a format in which to explore possible avenues for my mystery. The biggest problem is that I don’t really know “who dunnit” yet, and I want to explore each possibility and not just go for the most obvious. If anyone out there has experience writing mysteries, I’d love some advice on how to hash out the plot.

Thanks again!

Jamesaritchie
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Joined: Wed Oct 26, 2005 12:11 pm

RE: using an outline

Postby Jamesaritchie » Thu Apr 27, 2006 10:58 am

I'll tell you a llittle trick with mystery writing. Sit down a figure out who did it, and why they did it. Now write the book and have someone else do it for a different reason.

OmenSpirits.com
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RE: using an outline

Postby OmenSpirits.com » Thu Apr 27, 2006 6:08 pm



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