Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Outlines

Outlines are very important.  This is not something I learned quickly and I really really wish I had.  It's one of those things that I look back on and think how did I ever do it without one?  The answer is, if I'm being frank, I didn't really.  When I began writing Code of the Firefly, I didn't have an outline.  I was pantsing it to the extreme.  It was fun, stuff happened, but things were really jumbled; I couldn't keep all the plot threads straight, especially since they changed so much in every revision.  I needed a way to organize not just my thoughts, but the timeline of everything that was happening.  Voila, outline.  Or I should say, duh, outline.

I had already written the whole first draft when I realized I was missing a few things.  In order to get them right, I wrote an outline because I was just fed-up with missing things.  (Really, I wrote a few outlines).  I wrote out every major scene in each chapter, and what the MCs find out in that chapter, or what they have to find out if I hadn't already included it, all in different colors.  I love color coding!  
I also included keywords like INCITING INCIDENT, ESCALATING TENSION, RESTING POINT, THE BLACK MOMENT, TURNAROUND etc.  This helped me sort out where specific points of tension of the story would go where.  I think this also helped me with pacing, to make sure the story was moving forward.

I think outlining really saved my book.  It was a jumbled mess before I revised it using an outline.  It really allows you, as the writer, to see all the arcs of the all the plot threads.  I also used it to sort out when and where the MCs find out specific pieces of information.  Before outlining, the MCs would find out massive amounts of plot information at a time.  Then I realized I could let the information progress through the story.

I'm still in the middle of revising using my outline.  If I had used one in the beginning, I really could have saved myself a lot of time and work, and be done revising, which I feel like I've been doing foreverrrrrr.  But it's all part of the process, right?  Better to get things right now, rather than start querying too early.

How do you feel about outlines? Do you use them?  Why or why not?

5 comments:

  1. I'm nearing the middle of my second novel right now and clearly I learned nothing from writing the first, because I did the exact same thing. I started out knowing the end and a few key scenes, but went ahead and started writing, pantsing it for the most part. Now that I'm getting farther in, I wish I had an outline. UGH. This SAME THING happened last time! I want to smack myself lol. So yes, I do think outlines are important. In fact, I think I need to go make one right now :)

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    1. EXACTLY, lol. I think it's because I don't want to take the effort to plan and outline when I could just be writing, because writing is the good part! But it's just so much more helpful in the long run to have an outline...

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    2. Yes! It's definitely because I'd rather be writing, too. *sigh* I'm glad we're learning, though. Lol.

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  2. I think outlines are useful for the reasons you cite, but don't ever give up the serendipity of creation when writing a novel, when the plot or one of your characters surprises you...that's when you know that the plot and characters have "come alive."

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    1. Yes definitely. There's still a fair amount of pantsing that goes on, at least for me, when I have an outline. Just last night I was revising and realized I left out a plot thread and decided it was better to leave it hanging. Totally surprising and by accident, but def for the better :)

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