Outlining, planning, writing

Posted on November 6th, 2005 @ 16:56
Filed Under NaNoWriMo, Writing | 2 Comments

I probably mentioned this in passing a few times here: shall I go on with writing “depending on my inspiration”, or adopting a more thorough way of planning? I was never sure of what method would be best for me. Would I need to plan carefully, or just run with the inspiration? After a few weeks of trying to change my ways of doing, I’ve started to wonder if, in this like in many other aspects of my life and work, it’s not the middle ground that would work best. And recently, it occurred to me that the problem for me exists in two forms: I don’t need outlining for a short story, but I sure do for a novel.Short stories are “easy”, in that I can quickly go from beginning to end. 3,000 or 4,000 words isn’t that much in itself, if it’s on a day when I have time and a good idea with a strong ending. However, it’s not possible for a novel—writing 100,000 words in 24 hours simply is not human—and as such, once I lose my momentum, it’s hard to pick it up where I left it the day before. Hence my need for a synopsis or, more precisely, an outline of the defining events in the novel. What happens that causes a certain event to occur, what other event did trigger the one presented in chapter three, and so on.So far, for NaNoWriMo, I’ve been going the semi-outlining way—scribbling down the 4-5 “marking plot points” of each chapter, nothing more—and I must admit that it’s working well. Pretty well. If I’ve done that well on my novel so far (as I’m writing this post, I’m over the 15,000 words mark), it’s not only because I’ve had a week-end and a holiday in the middle, it’s also because I knew where I was going.Which has caused me to conclude, I need to throw out the snotty “but I’m an artist /whines whines/ if I use outlines it’ll kiiiill my creativity /whines some more/ and then I’ll be sooo totally unable to write”. With the risk of sounding like a machine rather than a human being (whatever, I’ve already failed Turing’s test anyway), screw the snobby artist in me. Let’s plan.Really, it’s only a good excuse for me to not write about what I should write. I may accept to call it “I feel like writing sci-fi more than fantasy today”, but “my Muse feels blocked by outlines” isn’t true for me. I need a plan to follow. It’s so much more entertaining to write a story when I’m not burdened by panicked feelings of not knowing yet how it’ll end, and to be honest, at times, finding how to unblock the next plot point or what an ending to give to a story can take me way more than only a few days.I don’t want everything to be carved in stone and me walking on a narrow path from which I mustn’t stray. However, I need to admit this to myself: outlining mildly seems to be the way to go for me. I don’t remember having ever been as productive in my writing than in the past five days, and it’s not only because I have a deadline.And if things are to change in the middle of the novel because I’ve gotten better ideas, well, the outline will just change as well!(I know, this all seems very evident. I just needed to say it out loud for myself, and to write it down clearly.)Y Tags: | | |


2 Responses to “Outlining, planning, writing”

  1. Chris Howard on November 6th, 2005 10:27 pm

    I work better with an outline as well. Even if I start with a few characters, I will, at some point, have to stop and build some structure and connected events. And this takes time–time that I had last month that I do not have now. There just isn’t another way that works, as far as I know. I’m a simple outliner, too. It’s all about guidance without over-constraining the process. Maybe it’s just never happened to me, but I can’t start with a couple characters and then simply turn them loose, expecting an entire story to somehow fall out of the action.Because I already have an end plotted and partially written, I have some worry about finishing short of 50k. Do you? That leads me to add another point that only really applies to NaNoWriMo: Like your short story example, it’s also less difficult to write 50,000 words if you have no plan to finish, if you keep piling on characters and storylines with no end in sight, as if your ultimate goal is 500k not 50.>15k! You’re an inspiration. I’m now cursing myself for being lazy in October.

  2. Yzabel on November 6th, 2005 11:39 pm

    Ah yes, doing the outlining this month is a harder task. In October, it was easy, I wasn’t “allowed” to write, so this was the only derivative I could find regarding this story. Now, I just add bits here and there if they come to mind, but I do my best to make sure I have some kind of outline, to keep the way padded, so to say.I also have this fear of falling short of 50k. In fact, I’m pretty sure I’ll fall short. The thing is, if this happens, I know I at least have many things to rework/add to. Some descriptions, for instance, would need good padding—I tend to keep them short at the moment, because I don’t always know the translation in English, and as much as I like learning new words, resorting to the dictionary all the time is just so annoying.Going the road of “piling up characters and storylines” sure seems easier. In my case, though, I’d find it too bad. I know this month’s work has the potential to end up as a finished story, even if not the ultimate best-seller of all times (I’ll be happy if I simply finish it!). It deserved to be given a shot, so there it goes…

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