Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Outlining - Map to a Masterpiece?

Lately, with my recent vow to finish the outline for my novel by the end of the month, I've been thinking about the outlining process. A LOT.

Although I don't fully outline my novel from start to finish, I do like to have a sense of what's going to happen in the story, sort of a map, to navigate me through my journey when writing. (I like to think of it as my MapQuest map. You know, all the points are on there, laid out neatly for me to follow, but sometimes the directions just aren't right, and you have to make adjustments. That's when creativity kicks in.)

I've tried, numerous times, writing without any kind of direction. Once, I even finished a novel (my first, which was 93,000 words) to find that, although I was completely in love with the story and the characters, my novel was missing one important piece...a plot. And that is not all.

Eventually, I had no other choice but to shelve my first novel. [Tear] I spent many sleepless nights trying to find the perfect plot line to insert into that story, but I couldn't seem to make anything work. I think, maybe, I was just too close to it, being my first story and all. I plan to revisit it in the future, because I feel the characters do have a story to tell, they just haven't quite divulged all of their dirty little secrets yet--they are a tough crowd. Believe me. And, until that time comes, they will remain locked away in my laptop, percolating, until they're ready to spill.
Excuse me. What did you say about us???

Who is this?

It's Lyla. And Ryland. Who else would be it? Hmm?
Oh, hey guys. Long time no see.

Yeah, maybe that's because you've been too busy with your other friends to come see us.

Lyla! Bitter much?

Well, it's true Ryland. She just went off and left us. Apparently we're "percolating" or whatever that's supposed to mean.

Guys. I didn't forget about you. I promise. I've just been really, really busy.

Yeah, of course you have. With Emma and Jaxon, I'll bet.

Emma is so hot!

I'm sorry guys. I promise to visit you as soon as I get finished visiting Emma and Jaxon.

Emma is so hot!


Yeah. Okay. I'll believe it when I see it.

Hey, Kim, can you get me Emma's number?

Ha, Ha. Well, Ry, I would love to give you Emma's number, but she's kind of dating Jaxon right now. Sorry.

Those two? Ha! They will never work out.

Maybe not, but I still can't give it to you.

Okay. I'll just wait till they break up. Or maybe I'll stop by her Word doc later tonight, you know, when Jaxon's asleep.

Ryland! Don't you dare!

Sure sucks when people disregard your feelings, huh?

Lyla, please don't be mad at me. It's not like I didn't spend ample time on your story. You were the one who refused to tell me all of your secrets. Remember?

Yeah, and it's a good thing.

Why is that?

Because you go telling all of these so called "readers" everything I tell you.

Well, they all love you so much. I've even had a few asking about you recently.

Did they ask about me, too?

Yes, Ryland. They asked about you, too.

Really? Who was it? It was Emma, wasn't it?

[Sigh] No, Ryland. It wasn't Emma. She is happily dating Jaxon.

That's not what she told me.

Shut up Ryland! Take the hint. Emma likes Jaxon and not YOU!

Okay, guys. I'd love to stay and chat, but I've got some work to do. I promise to come visit you all soon!


Bye Lyla.

Bye Kim. And will you tell Emma I said hi?

Bye Ryland!

I told you guys they were a tough crowd. What, didn't believe me?

We heard that!

So, when I began on my next project, which turns out to be my current WIP, I decided I was going to outline, so I didn't make the same mistakes again. But, I find the outlining project to be so daunting--a giant black hole that sucks away all of my energy and creativity.

This, too, is not a good thing. I find my current deadline to be helping, somewhat. At the very least, this impending deadline is forcing me to face the many, many problems I have with my plot. This dilemma just happens to be a good thing. Go figure.

So, I guess what I'm trying to get at is... how do you all start your stories: outlining, not outlining, mixture of the two? Or, is there some other way you've come up with to help you get started--another way of organizing all of your thoughts and ideas? Do you write on a computer or by hand? (I tend to write on my laptop most of the time, being a much faster typist than writer, but every once in awhile I will break out pen and pad. That doesn't happen very often--hand cramps.)

I'm really interested to hear about everyone's process. Because I know, everyone is truly different, and I'm certain their processes will be, too!

So, if you want to share, I would really love to here what works best for you!


  1. Kim -

    I LOVE the subject of this post by the way...something I always struggle with as well. I too scrapped my first book and it is currently hidden in the deep depths of my office filing cabinet...threatening to show itself once more when I'm ready!

    I found the article below when I started my last novel and it helped me TREMENDOUSLY! I didn't necessarily do every single step in the snowflake method but I did most of them and it helped me get the process down before I was too far along...

    Good luck with the outline! I love reading about your's almost inspired me to get back to it...almost! HA ha...after the holidays for me I'm afraid!

    Kristi :-)

  2. I am currently outlining and editing and I love it. I don't have a certain way of doing things, I guess i am trying to find my way of doing things. If that makes any sense.

    Thank you for stopping by my blog and now I will follow you!

  3. Kristi - I'm glad I can inspire someone. It's certainly a big undertaking with the holidays right around the corner.

    Shh..don't tell, but I might have to extend my deadline. I've found some inspiration for one of my characters and it might take a lot more research than I intended. But, I think my book will be better for it, and more creative and unique. : )

    I checked out that website and it was great! I think I might use it as well. I need all the help I can get with the outlines. They are the biggest pain, but I think necessary for me. It's weird because I'm such an organized person, but when it comes to writing I can't seem to organize my thoughts. So. Weird.

    Anyway, good luck with your writing. I'll keep you updated, as always, on my progress or non progres...LOL.

    Happy Holidays!!!

  4. Vicky - It's all about finding your own way, isn't it? For me, I hate the outlining part, but love the writing part. Unfortunately, I'm a writer that must outline--mostly to maintain my sanity, but I find it helps flesh out the story as well.

    Good luck with your story. Amber looks very interesting and promising. I wish you the best! : )

  5. I always think I'll outline but I never do. I let it fly and then revise heavily, many times. To me, revising again and again is easier than outlining. Though I started using Scrivener software this summer since I switched to a Mac and does help me a bit more with organization and jotting down notes. My plan with my WIP is to write about 100 pages, then go back and develop an outline or synopsis from that to turn into my editor for approval. So I'll do a synopsis retroactively!

  6. I don't know why, but outlining, too me, is pretty much impossible. For some unknown reason, I can't just can't do it. I'm about to call it quits on the outlining and just start writing and see what comes out. And then, once I'm done, or maybe after a few chapters, I can go back and analyze the plot and fix my errors.

    I still have a lot of research to do, mostly for inspiration purposes, so I'm kind of at a impasse.

    Should I write without an outline and without researching and then later go back and fix errors and add information I need to from my research? Or. Should I go ahead and do my outline now and all my researching and then start writing?

    It's so hard to figure out which path to take. I know they will all lead to the same place, but I want to make sure to work efficiently and effectively.

    That's my current dilemma. LOL.

    And my offical opinion is: Outlining SUCKS!!!

  7. "Once, I even finished a novel (my first, which was 93,000 words) to find that, although I was completely in love with the story and the characters, my novel was missing one important piece...a plot."

    Uh. Yeah. Sadly, I have been there and done that. :(

    What I *think* I do (and I hesitate to say it's my true method because, as an unpubbed author, I don't think I have a real method yet) is come up with an idea I'm passionate enough about and then just go. I have a vague sense of what the story is about (ex. "girl falls in love with vampire") but that's about it. I go for about 10K. Then I hit the "Oh crap I need a real plot now" wall. So I outline. Loosely. I create dots that I know I will need to connect. I stop short of the ending. Then I write through the dots, and I let the ending unfold naturally.

    There. I *think* that's my process. I'll let you know how it goes. ;P

  8. Kristan - I'm about to give up on the outlining business and moving straight into writing. It all comes so much easier that way...I think.

    But, instead of writing through the end this time, I might borrow from your idea and stop once I hit a certain point to revaluate and make sure everything is going how I want it...blah, blah, know all of that technical writer stuff. : )

    You'll have to let me know how your coming along with your MS. I'm anxious to hear about your progress. It always inspires me to work harder when I hear about other people being productive...LOL. : )