Friday, January 8, 2010

To Outline or Not to Outline! Your Thoughts???

My mind is a buzz this week! I'm writing Nightshade City's sequel, BILLYCAN: BOOK TWO OF NIGHTSHADE CITY, and I'm trying to decide with unwavering certainty how the 2nd half will pan out! I'm not an outline girl, not by far! My idea of an outline is blurbs on crumpled napkins and ideas that strike me literally in the middle night, from a dead sleep, that I have to jump up and write down, not even remembering doing it, but still happy I did!

What kind of writer are you? Outline or no outline? It's a hot topic! I would call myself a "seat of my pants" writer! I live on the edge! Let me know your thoughts!

My baddie rat, Billycan, does not outline either! Thanks to me, he's far too busy being sinister to take the time!


xoxo -- Hilary

35 comments:

  1. I pantsed my first book, but when I started writing mysteries, I knew I needed to outline for clue-planting and such. I use the Snowflake Method--well, parts of it. I swear by it--my books write faster and with a cleaner first draft.

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  2. Alice,

    You mean there are actually outline "methods"? Oh dear, there is a reason I don't outline! Just the thought of different methods makes me sweat! Ha, ha! It's funny, because in school, I was an outline maniac! Hmmm...

    xoxo -- Hilayr

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  3. I'm a "fly by the seat of my pants" girl when it comes to my short stories. I write them in one sitting and usually do just one or two small revisions with them.

    With my longer stories, I'm trying an outline or at least a longer than paragraph synopsis so I know where I'm heading in case I get distracted by something shiny.

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  4. Danielle! I love your "shiny" reference. When it comes to distractions, I'm like a bird who sees tinfoil in a field! I must have it!

    xoxo -- Hilary

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  5. Absolutely outlines! My first book, a pantser, meandered for over two years. I went to a few book events by highly successful authors and I kept hearing the same thing: "I write a 60-70 page outline for each book."

    My outlines only run about one page per chapter, but they are so helpful that I doubt I will ever write another book without one. Maybe someday my outlines will get up to 60 pages, too.

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  6. I keep thinking I need to try outlining. I'm also interested in the Snowflake Method. So far I haven't worked up the courage to actually give it a shot though.

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  7. I outline but that doesn't mean I like doing it- although I love making detailed notes on my characters inc. physical description, motivation, dislikes, likes, foibles, etc. and my settings..nor does it mean I ever stick to the outline. However it's good to have something definite to take aim at.

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  8. I like to knock out my first draft while inspiration is hot. Then when I dive into revision, I create a very pathetic outline - just to confirm my story makes sense. :)

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  9. I come up with a character who wants something and then I think up ways to put obstacles between her and her goal.
    I write many chapters and then do an outline of the chapters. Writing without an outline makes the story seem more organic. I can't get emotional and feel much passion for outlines which may be because I do such poor outlines that read like grocery lists.
    I think it was Stephen King who said: character + conflict = plot.
    I do agree that mysteries do require a bit more advanced knowledge.
    April Young Fritz

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  10. Definitely not an outliner. The thought of writing a sequel scares me to no end. Good luck!

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  11. If I have the entire book playing around in my head, then I do a general outline to make sure I don'f forget the hot points, otherwise I'm a pantser.

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  12. All you detailed outliners make me feel like a hack! I have such respect for the practice, but I am wholly unable to follow it! Ha, ha! Trust me, I've tried!

    It's fantastic to find out everyone's take on it! It's such a hot-button on writer's forums!

    Keep em' coming!

    xoxo -- Hilary

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  13. What the heck is a snowflake method?? I had no idea there were METHODS. I don't specifically set out to outline. I have an idea of where I want it to go, and I'll write that down along with any important snippits that I have to include, but nothing official. I don't even write in sequential order of chapters. My first novel, I wrote the first few chapters, then wrote the climax, wrote some of the middle, wrote the end, rewrote the first 3 chapters which turned into about 8, axed 3 characters completely, connected all missing dots, and tied the ending back into the beginning. There was no WAY an outline could have prepared me for that. :-)

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  14. I'm a 50/50 gal.

    I'm not sure you've ever sat in front of your computer to write, when writing was the last thing on your mind. This where my so-called "outline" comes in the picture.

    My outline is loose and wildly incomplete when you compare it to the final product. It simply gives me a general direction, and sometimes the dots I jot down give me a starting point for the days where I know I shall sit down and hang out with my characters and write, whereas all I want to do is sip a warm cup of tea on the sofa and read a great book...

    For the most it's free writing. The characters tell the story, and they keep surprising with twists and situations I didn't foresee when I started writing.

    Let us know what you decide. :)

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  15. I pantsed my first novel. I'm outlining my second. I found this book "First Draft in 30 Days" and it is aaaaaaaaamazing! I blogged about it yesterday actually, I am LOVING it so far. If you're looking for something for guidance, I highly recommend it!!

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  16. I've never used an outline, but plan to on an upcoming novel in verse project. The outline will effectively be a line in the outline per scene where each scene is a verse. I agree with April that it's hard to feel emotion in an outline when doing traditional writing, but somehow in verse I think it'll work. (Talk to me about it in a year or three.) Jim Danielosn

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  17. Total pantser.
    I tried the outline thing once and the novel remains unfinished.
    I have the key scenes in my mind and I just have to work out the best way to get from one key scene to the next.

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  18. I'm definitely a pantser. I feel cramped If I am working off anything more than a rough idea in my head.

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  19. Hilary,
    My writing (so far) has been picture book length or begining chapter books. I am embarking on two stories, one a YA and the other a MG that goes with a pb manuscript. I have loads of notes for both, but don't know if you'd call either of them outlines. I keep phrases and words I like in a file for each. I write a chapter, then make an index card for it. The index card says what characters were in that chapter, the setting, and the important points. I am keeping notes on each character too. (As you get older you forget stuff and need notes.) Obviously, I'm not a fly by the seat of your pants girl...But I'm not a complete outliner either. :)

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  20. I'm a mix between the two. I do a loose outline (10-20 pages) so I feel like I have somewhere to go, but I also follow impulses while I'm writing and it usually takes me down a better road. My end product bares little resemblance to the outline but outlining is still a useful tool to me.

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  21. I make lots of notes to myself...sometimes conversations with my brain about how sequences might go...but I wouldn't call them outlines.

    Shelley

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  22. I feel like the writing process is very organic. I usually just dive in and see where it takes me! But as the story moves forward, I start to panic that I'll forget all of the great ideas that are floating through my head. So I make a chapter list or plot list (names I totally made up) of maybe a page or two to sketch out all the ideas I have. And it doesn't always follow that path, but makes me more comfortable because I can't always write as fast as the ideas get into my head!

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  23. Wow, going by the comments, it seems we're about 50/50 on the outline vs. no outline throw down!

    I think for those who do outlines or are thinking of outlining their next MS, there are some great ideas, such as the snowflake method (whatever that is, ha!) and Sara's recommendation about the "First Draft in 30 Days" book.

    For me, I'm quite happy with my reckless, and as Sue Layborn calls it "pantser" writing! I find things more fun that way, whereas other writers might find my method, or lack there of, totally chaotic! I LOVE that we're all so different! That's what makes our writing unique to us as individuals and our books so darn good!

    xoxo -- Hilary

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  24. I love the idea of an outline, but having this problem myself, I come to the conclusion (after many, many wasted hours trying to outline)that I can't outline. My mind just won't let me do it.

    Flying by the seat of your pants is so much more fun!

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  25. I write a chapter-by-chapter outline. I do my best writing that way.

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  26. I outline the crap out of my novels. Sometimes my outlines are more fun than actually writing the book :P

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  27. Not only do I outline, I write very detail character sketches/interviews. I live for all that preplanning. :D And lets not get started on the research I do.

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  28. Stina,

    I may not be one for the outline, but I utterly adore research! It's one of my favorite parts of writing! I can't get enough! I guess it helps that I'm writing about something I WANT to write about, so I also WANT to learn as much as possible! Research is the best!! :)

    xoxo -- Hilary

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  29. I outline. I don't use the formal method I was taught in school--but I do make notes. The value of it is--you don't forget something and you can change the order or add to it or replace an idea. It's like a workmap
    you make and it can be words or sentences and do it any way you want.
    I think it brings order to your work.

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  30. Thanks for commenting over on my blog. It reminded me I'd wanted to come read this post! (I need gentle pokes once in a while.)

    I'm a SOTP writer, too. Like you, blurbs and reminders on random surfaces, but it's mostly mental picture. I'm trying to be a little more organized this year, but really I don't want to mess with the system too much. What works, works!

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  31. This must be a hot topic. I blogged about it and I've seen others do so as well. I used to be a seat of the pants writer. I evolved a little and then dove 100% into planning and outlining with my first NaNo novel last year. I thought it might stifle my creativity or be too challenging but it was a great decision and I truly feel my manuscript turned out better because of it.

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  32. Hilary-I am presenting you with an award over at my blog. I put a link to your blog and mentioned your upcoming book. I enjoy reading your blog and appreciate you reading my blog. Thanks, my e-friend. :)

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  33. I'm a definite outliner. Of sorts. How's that for a definite answer? :)

    I sort of do a first draft long hand, out of order, and through the MC's perspective as though he's talking to me. It's a long process, and the end result is a huge mess that no one but me can possibly understand. And THEN I do an outline. Which is really just taking all that info and straightening it out.

    Then I start chapter one for real. :)

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  34. I write mysteries as well and I'll never understand how anyone in this genre can write without an outline. The method I follow, and I'm not published so take it for what it worth, is I outline the backbone of the book first. Where do major plot twists and clues need to be take place. Then I break it down further to the chapter level, roughing out major events and character motivations in each. But when I actually sit down to write the chapter, its more free-form. You'd be surprised how much a chapter, or the overall outline will change based upon what I come-up with while I'm filling in the rest.

    It works for me.

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  35. Hilary,
    I just came across a short videoclip on this very topic that you might find interesting.
    See http://acrowesnest.blogspot.com/2009/06/how-to-write-novel-to-outline-or-not-to.html
    Carmela
    TeachingAuthors

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