Thursday, February 26, 2009

Outlining Goodness (Or How I Spent Last Weekend)

Tip of the day-- Check out my new cover for The Espressologist!

A few weeks ago I blogged about how I was a proposal writing fool. Well, I'm happy to say that I finished my third proposal late Sunday night and sent it off to my editor. YAY!

In that last blog I talked about how freaking hard outlines were for me. But it's so satisfying when they are done and let me tell you, I DO appreciate them when I go back to work on the book (which I'm doing this week for one of them). I spent all of last weekend outlining and I thought I'd share my process.

It really started before last weekend. For days (sometimes weeks) I brain dump various scenes into a document, cleverly labeled "notes"). When I think I have quite a lot of these scenes I print out the document, get a pair of scissors, and sit on the floor. I cut out each scene and then arrange into an order that makes sense. Like so:

Then I get more paper out and tape the scenes onto the paper, leaving space between each one in case I need to write in more scenes. Like so:

After that, I gather up my pages and park myself at Starbucks for three or four hours putting all this into chapters and making it sound good.

Wah la! It's done (Sorry no pic. Imagine pretty pages with paragraphs and chapter breaks.).

I'm not sure how but somehow this seems to work for me. I only got rid of two of those original scenes from the first brain dump. And yeah, I added a handful more but the majority of the outline came from this.

How do you outline?

Kristina, Miss Delighted to Debut


Rhonda Helms said...

Good question! I do kind of like what you do:

--first, I figure out approximately how many scenes the story will be. See, I generally know how many pages my scenes average, so I do a guestimate to get me started (e.g., if I write 6-page scenes, and my book is 180 pages, I need 30 scenes).

--then, I think of my major plot points (usually 2-3)...those are the cornerstone of my outline. They usually occur at even points in the manuscript (e.g., if I'm having 2 major plot twist points, they'll be scenes 10 and 20).

--after that, I write out a list of scenes that will fill in the gaps between my plot twist scenes and lead me to those major plot points. All very scientific, haha.

--last, I flesh out my scenes to make sure they have enough meat, and I make sure I wrapped up all dangling threads.

And then, I go at it and write like the wind!

DeenaML said...

Tina -- I love your way of outlining! It seems more organic.

Rhonda -- your mathy part of figuring how many scenes you need gives you a concrete page goal. I like it!

Maybe I should try outlining.....

Rhonda Helms said...

Deena, I need that daily page goal when writing and such, so it really, REALLY helps me to start that way from the beginning. :D

I looove seeing how other people write. It's fascinating!

Kate Fall said...

Wow, this is really interesting. I think the part I'm stuck on right now is "I think of the major plot points." I could see how Tina's method might jump start that thought process if I had little scenes running around in my head driving me crazy all day. Which happens to me quite a lot, actually.

Emily Marshall said...

What a good idea to write up scenes, print them out and then arrange. I tried this with post-it notes once, after the book was partially written. But the post-it notes were more character revelations, plot points, etc, and not really scenes. I LOVE the idea of doing this with scenes and trying to fit them together.

I outline pretty normal, just in a computer document and most of my outline makes absolutely no sense, except to myself. I use if very loosely when writing. I've wanted to try a better outline for my next book--and let is sit in my mind for a good few weeks or so.

And Rhonda--good suggestion on trying to figure out where certain scenes should go!

Kristina Springer said...

Wow Rhonda-- neat way of outlining!

It IS so interesting to see what everyone does!

Christina Farley said...

These are really great ideas. I am totally addicted to an outline after writing up my last WIP. I was lucky to have my instructor look over it too and tell me what areas would be a problem. I found it interesting when I got to those places as I wrote, I realized how right she was and i'm glad i made those changes.

So I'd say if you can, have your critique group look over your outline or a friend. It really saves you a lot of pain and rewriting later.