Friday, November 9, 2012

Outlining: write with the end in mind


Write with the end in mind. That advice has been around for a pretty long time, I think, but it seems to me that in the writers' blogosphere, pantsers (a.k.a. people who don't outline) run amok, for various reasons: it's liberating to write without an outline; if you don't know where your plot's going, then neither will your readers be able to predict the plot. (Honestly, I'm not quire sure of the reasons. As you might've guessed, I'm not a pantser.)

But there's a reason, I believe, why "write with the end in mind" is valid advice. Every story needs a plot arc. If you know where your plot arc ends, you'll always have an end goal towards which you can work. It also saves you from wandering through your middle in one direction, only to realize that your story actually ends up over there -- and thereby rendering your first 10,000 words useless.

As an outliner, I like to go beyond figuring out the ending; I usually summarize the general events of my middle, too, so I always have a general idea of the scene I should be writing. But as long as you know where and how to bring your story to a close, I think you can go ahead and pants your way through the middle.

Do you follow this advice? Why or why not?

-Yahong

14 comments:

  1. I definitely outline, but it's different for each story. For example, in my current WIP, the outline was only a simple list of about 10-15 major plot points (I'd have to check), but somehow, that turned into 70,000 words. It took a lot of pantsing between those major points to flesh it out into a story.

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    1. I've heard it can be different for each story, too! The major plot points sounds good enough for me -- like checkpoints to make sure you're still on track, right? :)

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    2. Definitely! But it's funny. The project I'm planning for after I finish this one already has 10,000 words of outline, brainstorming, and character sheets and so on. So for me, it really depends.

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  2. I'm a pantser, but am trying to reform. It's not easy!

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  3. Can all you outliners come over here and hold my hand? I really would like to outline--in fact I'm currently reading The Writer's Compass and I tried the Snowflake Method--but nothing seems to stick. I do write notes to myself at the beginning, but things veer off course almost immediately. the second draft is when things start to fall into place so hey, perhaps my first draft is really my outline! Eureka!!

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    1. Haha. I think that your first draft defintely could be your outline, if you work that way! I suppose some things simply don't work for some people. Which is perfectly fine. :)

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  4. I LOVE to outline! I was fortunate enough to hear YA Author Angela Morrison, who considers herself to be "plot challenged" and has researched plot methods to help herself, speak on this very topic through Writing for Children Live! She spoke about, and recommended a few, books actually written by screenwriters on how to plot out a novel - very informative! In these books, the screenwriters give step by step instructions for outlining and writing your plot! You can still access her speech through Writing for Children Live. I know it has helped me tremendously with my writing!

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    1. Thanks for sharing this resource!

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    2. Wow, that sounds like an awesome opportunity, Kim! What a great resource. :) I've definitely heard that the screenplay writing process sometimes mirrors the novelist's process.

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  5. I do outline and for me, I think the more detailed outline the better. But I still end up changing the novel as I go through revisions and often it doesn't much ressemble the original plan.

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    1. That makes sense to me, Andrea. I think the point of an outline is to help you write your novel, and as long as you accomplish that, it doesn't really matter how much your novel resembles your outline. :)

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  6. Great post! I'm a planner as well. But for me I really need to work out the major points of the middle rather than the ending, because I find whenever I hit the 30K mark I really start to drag and start second guessing myself and the story. Helps to have a road map!

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Thanks for adding to the mayhem!