Feb 23, 2012

Outlining. How and When do you do it?

I'm also on Kai Strand's blog, Strands of Thought, discussing love and loss and using that in writing. Kai and I both belong to Central Oregon Writers Guild and she's been gracious enough to help me out with keeping up with their blogging responsibilities.

Now, onto outlining...

Before I can begin writing a story, I have to know how I plan to end it. Even though, I pants it through most of the first draft, I must understand what I'm writing toward before I start. That little bit of focus is a must.

Most of my outlining, organizing comes after the first draft and before I start the second, more polished draft. [The version that goes to crit partners].

I've found writing brief bios for all my characters really useful. I sketch out a brief back story of their life before the novel opens and figure out what their goal is in the story. The back story may never make it into the finished project, but it helps me enrich the characters and the world. Sometimes it turns into another book (Backworlds).

I keep a journal for each project containing the character bios and world building. I've also created chapter sheets on which I write down the purpose of the chapter, the goal/focus, the scene, the characters in it, how the scene shapes the characters/plot, which plots/subplots the scene impacts and the setting. For some reason all of my organizing and plotting is done pen to paper. Writing is done on keyboard.

As I work on draft two, many post-its get stuck on my monitor. Ie, "mention Meelo's gun shot more often." And as feedback comes in from my lovely and brilliant crit partners, the plot remains in flux. And I find I only outline in detail to a point. The rest is committed to memory and I'll write minimum blurbs for the ending chapters, so I don't lose track of the plan.

Third draft, I pluck the post-its off my monitor and read them, jotting down which chapters the notes apply to. As I go through chapter by chapter, I'll implement my crit partners' suggestions. If it requires extensive rewriting, I will make a new outline, a condensed version though.

With the next project, I'm going to try more pre-planning of the characters and their goals and motives. I just can't do much more with plot than understand the big points I want to hit and where I want to end up. My brain just can't come up with great plot twists unless I'm writing. The brilliant flashes of inspiration only happen when in the act of creating.

Just how much do you outline? When? And what do you outline? How much detail do you include?