Thursday, January 7, 2010

Outlining 1, Sara 0

Some of you might remember this post, in which I said I'd be outlining my next project--instead of just flying by the seat of my pants, like I did with Shattered.  (If this is old news to you, feel free to skip the next two paragraphs!)

In case you're one of my newer followers here's a brief synopsis: I didn't outline my first novel, Shattered, and loved it. I've always been anti-outlining, because I just knew it stifled creativity. Even in high school when we had to outline projects, I'd write the project first and then go back and create an outline from what I'd done.

But by the time I finished Shattered, I was really frustrated with myself. I felt like it'd taken a LOT longer than it should have because there'd been weeks at a time when I'd been stumped about where (my characters wanted me) to go next--so I decided I'd try a new method for my next novel. Around that same time I stumbled across First Draft in 30 Days which goes into detail about some pretty cool ways to outline. And that's what I'm (loosely) doing now. Okay, you're caught up.

Well, in case you couldn't tell from the title of this post--whoa was I wrong about outlining cramping my creative style! (So far.)  I finished with Day 2* and I'm feeling more inspired than ever. Why? Because:

Day 1 was dedicated to developing my characters. Primary and secondary. And you know what happened? They've turned into these real people that live entire lives in my imagination.

My characters in Shattered did that too, eventually, but it would have been so. much. easier. had I known them this intimately when I first started writing. When I began editing Shattered, I had to go back and flush out most of the characters for the first few chapters--and I had to change a major part of the plot because I realized that the character it involved absolutely wouldn't have gone in the direction I had them going in... I'm now fairly confident that I won't run into the same problems with my new project.

Have I created every single character yet? Doubtful. I'm sure a few secondaries will still pop up along the way, but I can tell you here and now that I'll come back and create them through this process as soon as I become aware of their existence!

Day 2 was allotted for sketching out the settings of my new novel. Another thing I wish I'd done with Shattered. Because now I won't have to pause my writing process to think about what a certain place might look like. I know exactly what my characters' homes (and rooms and front yards, etc) look like. I know what the school looks like. I know what the... well, let me stop there before I give something too major away ;-)

Are there settings that will come up along the way that I didn't plan for yet? Absolutely. But, just like with any new characters, I will take my new settings through the same process I dragged the current ones through.

What are these "processes" I'm writing about? Well, you'll have to check back the next time I post--I promise it will be all about my characterization process! (Otherwise this post would be fairly epic in length...)

I'll leave you with this: Apparently outlining isn't just sitting down and making a roman numeral list with a timeline of things that are going to happen in the novel. (I'm not kidding, that's what I always pictured when people talked about outlining.) There's a LOT more to it, and just with the first two steps, I've already got such a well-rounded view of my new project... I've had ideas that I might never have thought about otherwise. I'm completely inspired, brimming with creativity, and can't wait to start the next section! (Plot sketches)

*I call the days Day 1, and Day 2, and so on, because that's how they're broken down in the book, but I sometimes take my time and use more than one day to complete that particular section.

♥ me


  1. Oooo, I can't wait to hear more! Hurry, hurry...my chapter book needs you. :-)

  2. Cool! I can't believe you didn't outline before. Pantsers are like soooooo foreign to me

  3. I don't think I'm the type to pants a novel. (Hang on... that's a strange image. Would that mean pulling the dust jacket halfway down in front of all its book friends?)

    Anyway, I think I'll be outlining this first one. I'm looking forward to seeing how you're doing it, good lady.

  4. Wow, Simon. I guffawed about pantsing a novel.

    Oh right, outlining. For my first, I outlined mostly in my head. I have an eidetic memory, so that works for me. But I don't count on it, and I outlined for my second and I feel a lot more secure about it. To learning from past grievances! :)

  5. Sounds like a good plan. Outlining helped me a lot on my latest WIP. However, I found that the first draft didn't quite stick to the outline because I had outlined far more scenes than would fit in the final draft so I found myself cutting stuff while writing my draft. And then the theme of the book changed, because there's something magical about actually writing the novel that can't be captured in outlining.
    Will be interested in seeing how this goes! (there are a couple posts about how outlining worked for me on my blog)

  6. That is so great! I'm so happy for you! Yea for outlining! I need to sit down and re-outline/re-evaluate now that I'm revising.

  7. I have the same book! I bought it after I started my WIP, but I did complete days 1 - 3 and they really helped me. I figured I would try the whole method for my next project. Keep us updated on your progress.

  8. I might have to check that out! I'm a total pantster, and I get really frustrated at times, too.
    I considered outlines to be full of bullet points and how boring is that??

  9. Welcome to the dark side. ;-) I switched to outlining with my last draft, and will never look back. I use simple scene outlines, but even that much does wonders for my writing. And of course there are still plenty of twists and surprises that pop up in the writing. I don't outline the ending either - that stays a surprise until I write the rest.

    Best of luck - I'll look forward to reading more about your new-found methods. :-)

  10. I'm a total fan of outlining. Like you, I flew by the seat of my pants w/ my first novel. And whoa, I could totally tell when I re-read it! It was like, "How on earth did that scene make it in there? Did I just not know what to write?" I *love* outlining. I feel like it's easy b/c it doesn't look intimidating. And then to write, you just expand the information.

    I'm a very loose outliner, though. I liked to have lots of room for randomness.

  11. I might have to get that book too! I am on re-write four of my novel; I know it's going to be great in the end, but I feel like it could have been much, much easier to get to this point.

    Please keep us posted on your outlining adventures!

  12. Oops... I am an Outliner, and I've always just pretty much done a Roman numeral time line style outline. I've filled out a few character sheets from other online sources, but so far my characters have been strong enough I haven't needed more characterization. Hopefully your post on characterization will give me some new and helpful advice. Can't wait!

  13. Outlines scare the dickens out of me!! I know it works for so many people, but I just can't do it. Hope it works well for you :)

  14. Lol Shannon O--I'll hurry, I promise! :-)

    Frankie, I forgot you were a plotter! I'm slowly inching my way over to your side of things...

    Simon, you really must stop making me spit things out when I read your comments, hahaha (no really don't. I adore your humor!)

    Angie Kate. You have an eidetic memory? I am SO jealous! One of my upcoming posts is about how terrible my memory is.

  15. Iapetus999--you know, I read some of yours about how outlining worked for you and it was one of the factors that helped me feel more comfortable with doing it this time!!

    Nisa, thanks! Good luck with your revisions, I am right there with ya :-)

    Julie, I KNOW right? Bullet points? BLECH. But this really has opened my eyes to a totally different light about outlining!

  16. Jamie, thanks for the welcome! And it's definitely the knowledge that there is still so much room for surprise twists and stuff like that that's made this so much easier for me to go with!!

    Tamara, yes, I think I'll be keeping my outline pretty loose as well... But not the stuff I've done so far! I'm trying to keep my character/setting sketches as absolutely detailed as possible!

    Guinevere, re-write number 4?!? Oh my goodness! I know it's tough bc we always get to that point where we want to say WTF! I've been working SO hard on this... why isn't it where I want it to be??? That's exactly why I'm trying to outline this time!

  17. Nels, hi! I hope it didn't come across that I was saying that roman numeral outlining was WRONG or anything! It's just not my particular cup of tea :-) Especially if it's working for you, stick with it! Everyone has their own styles of what works best for them!

    LOL JEMI!! I KNEW that comment was coming from you ;-) Seriously. As soon as I hit publish, I thought about it, hahaha!

  18. We swear by outlining--although we never do the roman numeral thing. Ours are listed by chapter number with a paragraph or two underneath. But in high school, I did the same thing as you--would outline after I had finished. Shockingly, my teachers often said my writing lacked direction. Hmm...I wonder why. Anyways, Lisa taught me how to outline back in the day and I haven't looked back!

  19. I semi-outlined my book... some very vague one-liners per paragraph that grew as the book grew. I hit the midway point and got stuck. Then, thanks to a very long meeting with Frankie, I realized I had to flip a lot of my second half around. (The general idea stayed the same.) My MCs were fully formed from the start, though!

    PS - Simon wins for my favorite comments ever on any blog.

  20. I think I'm wired wrong. I try the outlining thing but nothing comes to me. When I dive in and jump around with no plan, people, places, and scenes develop like magic. Oh well, whatever works right? So glad this route is working wonderfully for you. :)
    My blog

  21. Ah, I want to try outlining; keep us posted on how it goes for you.

  22. You know, I always said I never outlined, but the funny thing is, I start each story pretty much like you have. I think in these terms "ouline" is more of a broad term. I'm a huge note taker and I write lots of lists. So, I guess, according to this book, I'm kind of an outliner after all. Who knew? Yay me.

    And it's amazing how much easier it does make the story when you know all this background stuff, in't it? Great post, as always. So glad to see this book has been useful for you! I may end up buying it myself. And I look forward to seeing this next story come to life.


Yay! I love when you have things to add :)