Do You Outline?

Let’s continue with the questions you asked last week.

Nicole Pyles blogs over at The World of My Imagination. She says she’s a very visual person–sounds like a girl after my own heart. In fact on her blog she has a page she’s created for her video poetry. There are three up so far and they are all very well done.

She asks: Do you outline? If you do in any way, how detailed do you go?

This is going to be an interesting answer. Um, yes and no? I’m really more of a pantser, but I’m learning to plot more, and that means some form of outlining.

I’m a list maker by nature. I’ll start listing bullet points of what events need to happen.

Often a bullet point will be more questions than actual ideas. For instance, (possible spoiler/teaser alert for Orek) one bullet point reads:

  • How/why does Landry get captured? Why isn’t Talia with him? Perhaps…(a long list of ideas). Is anyone looking for her? Why or why not? How is she going to rescue him? Will she find help? Who would help her and why? How is this going to stretch Talia and Landry so they grow closer to where I need them?

There are more details, but that gives you an idea of how I start. Instead of a brainstorming flow chart, I write lists. The problem is I have pages of text and it’s often hard to spot the good ideas amidst the rambling.

So I tried the tent beat sheet from Nanowrimo.

I couldn’t find the link on the Nano site, but here are the links to my google copies.
Tent Beat Sheet 1
Tent Beat Sheet 2 Scroll down to page 2. For some reason it has a blank page 1.This is the same as sheet 1, but adds boxes for your hook, pitch, and themes.

This approach is more visual and easier to keep the main plot defined. It’s easier for me to deal with, then I list details and subplots not covered by the tent somewhere else. Technically you could fill out one of these for each subplot if you wanted.

You can also check out the Snowflake Method. I started a book this way once but didn’t get very far. It looks like a great idea, but didn’t work for me personally. I felt too confined by the process. *shrugs* I know it works great for other people. Or so I’ve heard.

I think the real trick is finding what works for you. There are as many different ways to write a novel as there are novelists. Personally, I’m still playing around with things to find my perfect method. I will say I’ve never outlined the way they taught us in school. 

How about the rest of you? Do you outline? How do you do it?


About charitybradford

Science fiction and fantasy writer and blogger. My first novel is now available--The Magic Wakes (WiDo Publishing, 2013)

Posted on September 14, 2011, in Personal Journaling, Plotting, Questions, Writing Lessons. Bookmark the permalink. 15 Comments.

  1. I do outline, but I just write short paragraphs about each major scence. No graphs, no charts, just a couple pages of paragraphs. And I rewrite it many times before I begin.

  2. This is a great post and I love the links and visuals! I'm still a relatively new writer. Completed two manuscripts and recently "outlined" my third. I think I'm more of a bullet pointer myself. I love that yours is all done by hand. My notes currently take up 8 typed pages. I think planning everything out beforehand will help me to complete the third ms much more quickly! christy

  3. Oh, how I wish I could outline. It would make my writing life so much easier! lol 🙂

  4. I use digital Post-its on a virtual corkboard. (It's very similar to the tool in Scrivner, but can be used on PC's.)They can be rearranged, color-coded, stacked to keep events grouped by chapter, or you can open a new board for each chapter if you'd rather do things that way.Strict outlines are too rigid, but something like this, with moving parts, I can use pretty well. Especially when a random idea pops up while I'm writing. I can open a board, click to the appropriate story tab and jot the idea down so it's there when I get to that point.

  5. What a nice surprise!! I just decided to check the feed on the latest blogs I follow and found this! You actually outline just like I do…I think I outline the way my brain works and I ask questions as I go. Once I get THAT settled, I begin to outline more detailed (sort of starting that now). I realize for me I need to outline because I tend to drift and lose sight of a plot! Ha ha…which apparently is needed. Great post'! And thank you for the compliment on my videos!

  6. I am a big time outliner. I won't start writing (apart from little inspired scenes here & there) until I have a scene by scene outline, and then quite often I write down points for a scene before I write it. I feel better when I know where I'm going. I loved hearing about your process. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  7. My process is similar to yours. I sit down with a pad and start putting random characters down, asking questions and drawing circles and lines to the answers and then put them all together.

  8. I make initial notes in a spiral notebook, just in note form. Then when I'm ready to write, I plot out everything on notecards in Scrivener. It works really well for me.

  9. I do outline GMCD for each chapter. Although I tend to deviate, this guarantees that I have what needs to be each chapter. Thanks for stopping by my blog yesterday to offer congrats!

  10. I'm a compulsive outliner. I'm starting to think I need to learn some of the panster-spirit. My outlines usually start out with a bullet-point tidbit, but then that little bullet-point balloons (sometimes) into a full page of questions/comments/concerns/etc. Yeesh! Sometimes trying to go back and reread my extensive notes makes my head spin. That can't be a good sign.

  11. I lose track of who I replied to by email, but I think I missed these awesome people. Does anyone know why blogger doesn't supply the email for everyone?Tara I forgot about Scrivener! How could I do that? I actually started using the free Beta version earlier this year. There are so many things I like about it, and yet I keep going back to my regular word documents. What's wrong with me??? Habit!Ciara, if you stop back by, can you define GMCD? I'm thinking goal, motivation, conflict, d?Lindz, notes are good, so no worries there. Maybe you just need to find the right organizing tool so you can access what you've outlined? Josin virtual corkboard? Sounds like a dream. Where can I find it?

  12. I'm an outliner, but I do it in what I call a "short draft", which is basically me writing out what I want the story to be. Kind of a synopsis before I write the novel. At least, that's what I do now. I'm sure I'll tweak this process again. (Eventually I'll find the "perfect fit".)As for your question about why blogger doesn't supply email for everyone: to have your email available, you have to opt in. In the User Profile, if someone doesn't check "show my email address" under Privacy, then that person's email is set as "noreply". It's kind of stupid wording, because the email address isn't visible. It shows up as "email" under "Contact". But I know that's why I didn't have it checked for the longest time (until another blog clued me in to this). Hope this helps.

  13. Great post! I outline more as I get towards the end so I can tie up all the loose ends. I also try to predict the word count so it falls within my goals.

  14. I'm a pantser at heart. I guess I just don't have the patience to outline in too much detail. I want to get stuck in and WRITING asap!

  15. I'm a panster for short stories. Love it that way. But it's not carrying over to well for my novel. I tried the snowflake method, not so good for me. At the moment I've got a list of chapter outlines, but I'm liking the look of that tent. Thanks, Charity. I'm going to check it out.

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