Monday, November 9, 2009

The Saucy Minx Called Outlining

I tend to be a seat-of-the-pants writer for the most part (which is odd considering my love of rules-based systems and mass amounts of research), so I've thus far resisted outlining any of my written works. Kind of incongruous, yes I know, but there it is.

I've been saying lately that I'm taking a "break" from writing CALLARION AT NIGHT because the amount of things that have to happen in the back portion (aka the climax/resolution) is forcing me to plan it out ahead of time. Which is true -- I just figured out today how everything's going to wrap up, and it's going to be a doozy if I do it right.

So I started outlining. For the first time.

See where this is going yet?

Let me offer up a mathematical example:

Me + being detail oriented + outlining + the ability to at a glance examine the entire storyline = oh, so far about 13 pages.

Not of the climax/resolution, mind you. I'm not that insane ... sheesh.

The 13-page outline deals with the first nine chapters of the book, which have now ballooned to fifteen chapters as I realized that I was trying to cram too much information into too small of a space. I have 17 chapters currently written (48,579 words) that I'm making myself outline for some God-only-knows-why reason (probably the last portion of the equation before the equals sign).

By now I shouldn't have to tell you what my detail-focused mind is going after. I'm looking at motivations, reactions, the sequence of events, etc and so forth ... all in the name of making the story stronger. Now, this isn't a bad thing. But it's almost as addictive as the writing itself!

Yeah, this is why I haven't done detailed outlines before. Because I knew this was going to happen. Then I read posts advocating outlining as a method of writing, and I figured what the heck? It can't be that bad, right?

How the mighty have fallen.

P.S. Thanks to Stephanie Thornton for the One Lovely Blog Award. Unfortunately, pretty much everyone I'd nominate already has this award, so I'm going to forgo that portion of the process. Take that blogosphere!


Stephanie Thornton said...

13 pages?! Holy cow!

I have an outline for RELUCTANT QUEEN, but it's bare bones- one page. But I have a whole notebook of notes on the Old Kingdom. Yesterday I spent hours researching and wrote a page.


And all that historical detail will probably get cut down to a couple sentences. Such is life.

Matthew Delman said...

It's roughly half a page to a page per chapter. And remember this is my version of an outline -- my detail-oriented brain won't let me get away with just listing scenes -- no, I have get into crazy detail with it.

... Stupid outline.

Joshua McCune said...

I'm thinking you should have been an engineer ;)... outlining is way above my patience (well, I'll outline in my head, and then write it down a few pages for an entire novel on paper, and promptly not use the written pages b/c I've already got it mapped in my head).

Matthew Delman said...

Funny you should say that, Bane. My other half and I were talking about how math skills traditionally split between science folks and creative folks.

According to her, creatives tend to be better at geometry and rationals usually kill at algebra. I'm skilled at algebra, but suck at geometry, so by that thought process I should've gone into a science field instead of a creative one.

Ain't contradictions grand?

Joshua McCune said...

Hmmmm... interesting... I hated geometry (proofs), but rocked at trig (and, of any of the advanced maths, it's the one I've used far more than any other).

Davin Malasarn said...

I've been outlining my latest book after hearing Scott and Michelle talk about it so much. It has been fun and, as you say, addicting. I'm not sure if the method will work for me, but so far so good.

Matthew Delman said...

Davin --

Its main benefit, I think, lies in the ability to show you the entire breadth of your story within a few short pages.

Outlining has certainly helped me notice plot holes better. I'm probably going to do this all the time now.

L. T. Host said...

I can't outline; I can't. This is what happens when I outline:

I start with one or two short sentences per scene. Then I add more detail. Then I add some sample dialogue.

Next thing you know, I've freakin' written it, only without any style or voice.

Ugh. If I outline, I end up with a very short book. I'd rather just write it through as it comes and then add a little later, instead of having to add a ton now. But that is why different things work for different people. I can-- and do-- respect outliners, I'm just not one of them.

Matthew Delman said...

L.T. --

With the pace you write at, I'd be shocked if you took the time to outline. ;)

Renee Pinner said...

I try to outline, but I generally lack the discipline required to follow it all the way through to the end. My characters have a way of surprising me and meandering down their own damn path. Kind of frustrating, really.

L. T. Host said...

Haha; to be fair, V is the first book I've written that quickly.

Speaking of, did you get my email?

Stephanie Thornton said...

Algebra sucks!

Sorry, just had to get that out of my system. Geometry's okay and so are stats.

My outline is just basic scene sequencing. It's there when I finish a scene and go, "What the heck now?"

Susan R. Mills said...

You know, I've always been a pantster, but recently, I've decided it might be better to outline. My next go around, I will try an outline. Yes, the mighty have fallen.

Adam Heine said...

I love planning. For all the reasons you said, plus:

* It minimizes the amount of major rewriting I have to do (which always feels like wasted work to me).
* It shortens the amount of drafting time I spend staring out the window going, "So what happens now?"

Also, I love algebra and geometry. I pretty much loved math up until advanced calculus (which, by the way, is where stats lead) when I lost track of what the purpose was.

If you're getting too detailed, maybe you can try this. Start with an overview, like 1-2 sentences per chapter. Once you have the main plotline laid out, you can go back and add detail or fill holes.