Monday, October 12, 2009

The Outliners Got Me

(posting change up - in an effort to keep myself mildly sane :D I will be posting on this blog on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and on the new blog on Tuesdays and Thursdays)

Also - HAPPY HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!! to my stepson Matt. May your day be spectacular :)

Well, since I mentioned in my Blog Chain post that a great way for a character, or person, to experience change and grow is to leave their comfort zones, I thought I'd share my recent "leaving the comfort zone" experience.

*ahem* I have decided to outline my next book  :D

I know I always said I hated to outline, that I would never do it, that I liked to just write by the seat of my pants. I still do.

However, I have decided to give outlining a try for a few reasons.

1. NaNoWriMo - I will be starting this book for NaNoWriMo - I am hoping that an outline will keep me on track, remind me where I need to go, and thus help me meet my word goal

2. Revision Problems - I am hoping to head off some revision problems. With both of my past novels, I've ended up cutting about half of the novel and completely rewriting those sections. Mainly because I get off track and write a bunch of stuff, that, while I love it, just doesn't help the plot any and bogs down the pacing. So again, maybe an outline will keep me on track and prevent major cuttage when the time comes

3. A Better Story - This time around, I want the main story fleshed out. I want to know who my characters are, what their motivations are, what they will be doing in the book, what their main conflict is and what they'll need to do to resolve it. I know things will still happen as I write that I don't plan. That's good. I love it when that happens. But I don't want to get halfway into my story and have no idea where to go. Or have to come up with some lame storyline at the last minute. I want to have a good story with an interesting plot with a lot of cool, well thought out stuff happening. I think an outline will help with that.

4. Better Characters - I would like my characters to be more thought out this time. I want a better idea of who they are. I had a bit of a problem with my main character with my last novel. I don't want that to happen this time

And you know, so far it hasn't been so bad :) I've mostly been focusing on research and fleshing out my plot. And I'm getting really excited about this story. I was struggling with my characters' motivations and their main conflict. I had an idea what I wanted it to be, but wasn't positive. Had I just started writing with the general idea that I had, I would have either gotten stuck, frustrated, and given up - or come up with something that wasn't the best idea in the interest of continuing the story.

This time, I have a really good idea of my story from start to finish. And I think I may reach all of my goals, simply by taking the time to really ponder my story and outline where I need to go. We'll see how it goes :)

How about everyone else? Do you guys outline? Ever? Have you tried it and hated it?


Michelle Gregory said...

just be prepared to throw the outline "out the window" and write a new one when the story takes a direction you never expected. this has happened several times to me just in the course of writing my current sequel.

Michelle McLean said...

Yep. That's why I've hesitated to do this before. Because my stories always end up completely different from what I intended. But, I think part of that reason is because I go into it with maybe a few solid scenes in my head and a vague idea of how I want the story to go. Sooo, we'll see LOL

T. Anne said...

The outliners got to me too and at last I have succumb to their evil devices. You know what? It helps. A lot.

Michelle McLean said...

I hope it does - I can handle evil if it helps me write a book ;-D

Jill Edmondson said...

I agree that it is a great idea to leave your comfort zone and try something new, whether that's in your writing (content) or in the method/approach (sitting down 30 minutes a day or whatever).

Somebody once told me that it was a good idea to havee your chaaracter learning something (something that you yourself do not know - banjo playing, karate, about medieval art, whatever) and that this infuses authenticity into your writing.

I have not yet tried this but will when I start my next manuscript. It seeems like it could be a useful suggestion.

Thanks, Jill

Emily J. Griffin said...

I have outlined as well. Though, as I've not finished any project of book length yet (outlined or not) it's hard to say what works best.

For the writing challenge having a clear set of ideas to help keep you on track, it should be nice. That's what I like best about the outline, the satisfaction of crossing off a finished scene. Also, feeling like I can skip ahead and not be lost.

However, everyone is right. The outline will change as new ideas pop up, but you at least have the bare bones to fall back on in times of need.

Good luck!

Novice Writer Anonymous said...

I've done a mix. My first novel, I had a very rough outline that I ended up throwing out the proverbial window because the characters took the story in a different direction. My second novel I outlined all the chapter titles with a sentence or two about what happens in that chapter. My other WiP has no outline other than I know where my characters start, a little bit of what happens in the middle, and the end. And the ending is up in the air at the moment.

You need to find what works best for you and for the project you're working on. I think that changes with each book and with each passing year.

Stina Lindenblatt said...

I'm an outlining girl all the way. But I allow myself to be flexible and am always delighted with the results. Somethings you just can't plot out in advance until you get to that scene and you now know your characters better. I'd be lost if I didn't use an outline though, and the revisions would end up being quite extensive. I know this from past experience. ;-)

Michelle McLean said...

yeah, I don't know if I could have outlined my last book - certainly not the first book. The first book warped into something so completely different from what I intended it was ridiculous.

This book seems much easier to outline. And it's not a major, detailed outline. One chapter just says "scene with the bad guy," and one is "they find the answer." So, plenty of room for changes :)

But I am hoping that having a general idea of where I need to go will save me from deleting half my book when revision time comes. I've gotten better at cutting things, but it would be nice not to have SO much revision work at the end :)

L. T. Host said...

Best of luck. I'll stick with my surprises for now, but someday the evil outline will probably get me in its sticky grasp as well.

christine said...

THis must be the week for outlining! Now...if I could just come up with a plot!!!

MG Higgins said...

You make some great arguments for outlining! I'm telling myself I'm going to do the same thing, also in preparation for NaNo, but, alas, I've done no more than think about it.

ElanaJ said...

I don't outline, as you well know. But I've made some notes for my NaNo novel as well. Rough notes. Nowhere near detailed enough. But it's a start.

B.J. Anderson said...

Yes, I like to outline (please don't stone me!!). Good luck with yours and can't wait to see it!! :D

Michelle McLean said...

Now, would I stone one of my new peeps? :D

storyqueen said...

I just did a post about outlining.....but maybe you shouldn't read it, because, really, I'm not so much of a fan......

(Maybe it's just that my outlines always sucked......)

Good Luck!!


Lady Glamis said...

Yay for outlining! I don't outline much for a first draft, but I DO plan things. I like to flesh characters out and spent a lot of time on research. As far as outlining chapters and such, I do that as go along, just a few steps ahead. It's just all very complicated!

I always refer people to my mapping posts when they ask if I outline or not. :)

Michelle McLean said...

L.G. and Shelley - I read both your posts and...I think I have a foot in both opinions :D Here's my thinking. I've written two books now by the seat of my pants. Well, to be honest, I had a very good idea of where I wanted to go, and went in a totally different direction.

And I loved it - it was great!

But. There were points in these novels (and the four others I've started and never finished) where I came up against a wall and had no idea at all where to go. Mostly because I didn't have a clue where I wanted my story to end up. There were also points in the revision processes where I came up a problem so big or so time consuming to fix, that I debated whether or not it was even worth it and had to pull my finger away from the delete button.

Now, I really don't want to sound like I'm complaining about the work involved. I know this involves work - and I LOVE it. It's not that my other books have involved too much work. It's that I think all that work would have been unnecessary if I had put more thought into the story beforehand.

I probably shouldn't say I've outlined...because what I have is more of a synopsis of main points. I want the story to start at point A and end at point D and points B and C need to happen in order to get them there. The rest is a toss up.

But I think I might be leaning more toward L.G's take on this. In grad school, I got very used to writing under a deadline. I had two small children and a husband who was always out of town. I had to make every spare moment I had count. I didn't have the time to sit at my computer and just think.

It didn't make my work turn out worse or less creative. In fact, my first publication was a narrative essay I wrote in under 20 minutes and only edited once because the deadline was a few hours from when I saw the ad for the open call. I'm good at working with a plan and a deadline.

And I have no problem cutting words, at all. I've gotten incredibly good at it :) It's not the deleting that makes me twitch. It's the spending months on end trying to figure out what I need to do to fix the plot holes and character flaws and lame storylines that I came up with because I couldn't figure anything else out and I'm just trying desperately to save the story I've spent months of my life on.

Now, I know this may happen to me anyways. And knowing my strange and inconvenient brain, the story will probably take off in another direction entirely. But I'm hoping (hope being the operative word here) that what I end up with is a story that is a little more authentic, a little more believable, a little more polished, that will require a little less work fixing.

I'm good at revisions - I even like them. I'm not afraid of them or the work involved. And I'm fine with lots of hard and sometimes frustrating work. It goes with the territory. Unnecessary work, though, just seems so...unnecessary ;-D

I still have two small children at home and a husband who works long hours. I still need to make every second count. So....I thought maybe if I went into this like I'd go into an assignment in grad school - maybe I'll end up with something a little more worthy of my time.

Or maybe I'll end up right where I am and scrap the whole outlining thing altogether ;-D

Lady Glamis said...

Michelle, I think you've got a great outlook on this. You're working to see what will work the best for you and your writing - you're not diving in saying something is going to fix all of your problems. That's silly.

Outlining works for some, and not for others. Honestly, I think it would work for everybody if they just found the right spot and way to outline their work during revisions. Outlining before a first draft is a little crazy unless it's very loose. The Snowflake Method is a great idea, but I think actually starting the book and getting into is a good idea first.

Good luck! Just remember this is all learning and experience. It won't be time wasted. I also think professional writers rely heavily on outlines to get them through deadlines. You've got a great start. :)