Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Outlines, and how I use them

** Quick side note.  Look at the new badge for my blog the lovely Susan gave me!  It's to the right -->   Don't you love it?  I love it!  The little mouse is precious.  Thank you, Susan!!!**

No big surprise here -- I'm not an outliner.  (And I realize outliner is not a word, spellchecker.  Thankyouverymuch.)

Well, I don't outline for the first (usually) half of the story anyway.  I just write it.  Let the words flow and all.

Until I hit The Wall.

Sports, NBA, Cleveland Cavaliers, Ben Wallace, Brick Wall, Danny 
Ferry, Mike Brown, Basketball 

It's inevitable.  At some point in any story I'm writing, I'll hit The Wall.

I don't always see it coming.  I'll be cruising along, loving my characters and the direction then BAM!  How the heck do I get out of this?!  

Ah, the joys of writing.

That's when I pull out the note cards and sticky notes and get to planning.  First thing I do is decide where the story is going to end.  Then I look at where I am and where I need to be for the big-picture.

Okay, at this point I'm still OMG HOW DO I GET THERE?!

So I sit on it.  It could take a day, or it could take a week, but eventually it'll come to me.  I'll see the window through the curtains, down the stairwell to the left.  Then I go scene by scene -- what needs to happen and how to reach the ending.

The best part?  While I'm waiting for that epiphany, I'm revising.  Then the grand moment arrives, I write my little heart out to the ending, and I've got a descent draft ready to go to my alpha reader.

Is this the easiest way to write a novel?  No, probably not.  Is this the way for most people to write a novel?  I'm gonna guess no again.  

Is this the only way I can get words on the page?  Yep! 

If you outline, how do you do it?  Scene by scene or a general story arch?  And if you don't outline, do you ever hit that wall?  How do you work your way around it?


Pam Harris said...

I'm pretty much the opposite. I outline the first few chapters of my story, and then I just "pants" it the rest of the way. At that point I feel like I know my characters enough, and they'll lead me where I should go. :)

Kris said...

Love it! Thanks for this--I'm stewing about outlining at the moment (it works for nonfiction) and this is just what I needed to push me in the right direction. I love that you outline only part of the book. I might be able to do that. Or not. I HATE not know what happens at the end!

Holly Dodson said...

Pam - that's interesting. I pants the first part of the story to get to know my characters and their reactions. Funny how everyone works so differently! Love it.

Kris - Glad I could help! You could always do a general arch outline. Outline the beginning, the climax, and then end. Then just pants the fill-in part.

Whatever works! ;)

Susan said...

I do minimal outlining to start. I like to lay out world basics (since I tend to write fantasy/sci-fi/paranormal), so I don't break the rule or dig a plot hole I can't fix.

I also like to have a rough idea of GMC for the main characters and maybe a few critical events in their life that shaped them.

Finally, I like to know the ending! (As I was telling you yesterday.) Knowing to where I'm writing helps me build momentum to that point... But, I'm not doing it now and it's kinda fun!

I'll probably end up doing what you do when I reach the point where I finally know what needs to happen... Outline it when I hit The Wall.

Great post! And I'm glad you like the mouse. ;)

Claire Dawn said...

I've done something different every WIP.

The first one, I didn't write a thing before the first word. I just let the characters and plot simmer in my brain for a month.

The second, I had excel spreadsheets of characters and plants and places. That one kind of got stuck half way. Proof that I'm not one for epic fantasy.

Third, my current WIP, I outlined every character with 60 or 70 questions. I had an idea for the plot in my head, but it changed as I outlined. It moved from a 3 character polyphony to one character being the MC.