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Outlines

Discussion in 'Fanfic Discussion' started by Ched, Jul 24, 2013.

  1. Ched

    Ched Da Trek Moderator DLP Supporter

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    What do you guys use to outline?

    I've got a method of outlining that seems to work relatively well for me (though I am also curious to hear how others do it), but it's the keeping track of it that gives me trouble sometimes.

    What I tend to do is write out things like major character arcs, plots, and subplots with specific "points" to hit on my way through the story. I don't outline with excessive detail (so I don't know how I'm going from scene to scene, or usually what the setting will be, etc.) just the highlights that I need to hit. Then I make sure each scene accomplishes at least one (or more) of those points as I go.

    I find it gives me direction while still leaving me leeway to discover things as I go. I know where I'm going, I just don't know how I'm getting there until it's time to write -- that's fun for me. Direction but plenty of freedom.

    Here's an example:

    [​IMG]

    That's not my actual story by the way, just something I typed up really quick to illustrate my point.

    In a story (fanfic or otherwise) with a lot of stuff going on, that helps me keep it straight. In that particular example I have the main plot, with points I need to hit to move it along, some sub-plots, and a character arc for Ron (b/c over the course of the story he will change enough that it needs to be structured).

    The green bits are where I'm at in each subplot, I.e. green bits have already been included in scenes. Some of them are probably doing double duty, for instance the scene where Scrimgeour contacts Harry might be the same scene in which Harry discovers that there is something *in* the shadows, etc.

    But I use that to make sure that each scene progresses something about the plot, and when possible I have it do more than one thing at a time.

    A complex story would have a lot more columns than that.

    My problem is that... while I like this method of outlining, using Excel for it isn't ideal. I'm trying to find a better way of doing it in terms of software.

    How do you guys outline? Pen & paper? Keep it all in your head? Use the corkboard/storyboard on Scrivener? (I didn't like Scrivener, and while I love yWriter for drafting and notes it doesn't help as much with my outlining).

    Cheers
     
    Last edited: Jul 24, 2013
  2. Anarchy

    Anarchy Half-Blood Prince DLP Supporter

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    When I was still in college,I brought a special notebook to class everyday where I would constantly write outlines, and sometimes draw maps. This was for classes that didn't have computers.

    Now,all my outlines are done in the actual story file. The outlines are usually at the top or bottom of the story. When I'm actually writing the story, I'll put ideas I want to cover, or sometimes just random thoughts in parentheses. As I write, I delete the idea in the parenthesis with parts of the actual story. Some stuff always remains though, background information that the readers don't know yet, so I know where I'm taking each of the characters, and plot ideas I want to try, or remind myself to try later on once the story is developed.

    Needless to say, it's not very organized. I essentially write all of one idea in one large word file. Then, as I get enough words to fill up a chapter, I move that section to it's own file named Chapter 1, etc, and do the actual editing there. So the original file can end up quite large, even if half of it is just random thoughts and ideas which I may not cover for a long time, but it's a lot of the ideas that propelled me to write in the first place.
     
  3. Ched

    Ched Da Trek Moderator DLP Supporter

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    Yeah, what you see above isn't what I start with. Before I started the outline in Excel for my current fanfic, I had about 80k words of "notes" and "random ideas" and "quotes" and "references" in another file. (It's gotten bigger since then)

    I sorted through all that and pulled out plots and subplots and character arcs. Ignoring some, putting some in another file to look at later if there's a place for them, etc. This isn't the brainstorming, this is the result of the brainstorming.

    Also that's a neat idea on your story file.
     
  4. enembee

    enembee The Nicromancer DLP Supporter

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    I tend to do what you've done there. Except I use Dan Well's Seven Point Structure to describe the journey for each of my major characters. I just stick it in a word document or whatever.

    Once I've got the rough outline for every character, I'll break each one apart and weave them together into a somewhat cohesive narrative. Then I'll look at pacing and see where I need to jam in characterisation, extraneous plot or filler. It'll generally end up looking something like this:

     
  5. BitMyFinger

    BitMyFinger Banned

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    Honestly, I just keep a lot of ideas jumbled up in my head and try to write down the least important ones that I will most likely forget in a separate Word doc. The big scenes I also write down, except I just write specific ideas. An example would like how the smell of blood was too much or something or other. You get what I'm saying? You get what I'm saying.

    I'm not sure it is the best method, but you gotta go with what works.

    As for your software troubles, there are some templates in word that you might like. Search outline.

    If not, some messing around with tables got me this

    Editing? I think.
     
  6. Jeram

    Jeram Elder of Zion ~ Prestige ~ DLP Supporter

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    I've been experimented with a few things because of how delayed I can get if I don't do anything.

    My latest process goes like this:

    1) Overarching high level story arc at a bare level
    2) Minimalized plot point outlines, including subplots and character arcs
    3) scene breakdown

    So for example, I'd have something like:

    HARRY EATS TIME TURNER
    HARRY MESSES WITH TIME ACCIDENTALLY
    HARRY MEETS MERLIN
    MORE NONSENSE
    HARRY MEETS MERLIN THE OTHER WAY AROUND

    Which becomes
    Harry meets Merlin, who tells him the secret of time travel, sends him back
    Harry sees time, understands it
    Harry gets help from Hermione to start the ball rolling

    Which becomes more written out like:

    HARRY presents his idea of banging many broads to HERMIONE, who slaps him. She offers an alternative, which HARRY accepts. He heads back to BOOK ONE and asks RON about finding NEVILLE (who is there) and LUNA (who RON knows slightly).

    But I'm always open to new ideas.
     
  7. Evon

    Evon Seventh Year

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    Eh, my outlines aren't so much an outline as a jumbled mess. None of it is in order, except in my head, but all the key points are there.

    I really should come up with a better system, but what I got going on works for now, as my stories tend to develop as I write them and a lot of what I write is character driven.
     
  8. Ryuugi Shi

    Ryuugi Shi Hierarch

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    I pretty much have a word document for each of my stories where I jot down what I definitely want in each arc out to however many arcs--usually three ahead--which amounts to the skeleton of the story, which I then fill in. I then jot down a bunch of half-written scenes and conversations as I think about them and put them in there to later look over and put in if they fit. Sometimes I write important scenes and conversations ahead of time; in a few stories, I wrote the entire ending first thing.

    It's kind of a messy way to do things, though. Several of my word docs are over 100k.
     
  9. Riley

    Riley Alchemist DLP Supporter

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    I actually use QuickTopics for my outlines so I have different posts for different things. Right now I'm using it for a piece of original fiction and it's got several posts in the QT, one is a plot stream with the over arching plot for the piece, another is a character page which is essentially a character list, their relations and what chapters they appear in, another post is literally just the geography of the setting since I suck at drawing maps and suchs. Every category gets a new post that I then edit to update. Each subplot will also eventually get its own post in the QT thread.
     
  10. arkkitehti

    arkkitehti Professor

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    I use AutoCad. Yes, probably not the ideal tool, but I first needed some sort of tool to keep track on when the fixed points in my story would happen (school holidays, OWL exams, birthdays, full moons, and various canon events) and how much time there was between those points, so I draw a calendar with a couple of years worth of days straight on top of each other. And with that in place it was only natural to write the planned events in the story on top of that, which made it easy to see when there was too big time skips and where there was unrealistic amount of action packed in too little time.

    And as there is for all intents and purposes an infinite zoom over infinite area, it sort of grew up from there: I can get an overview of the whole thing in one glance, but there's a lot of notes and ideas all around the now 100x100 meters model space.

    Then of course for larger snippets and individual scenes there's a lot of individual text documents, but that's not really outline.

    Probably a bit technical way of doing things and wouldn't work with all types of stories, but it has worked for me.
     
  11. Riley

    Riley Alchemist DLP Supporter

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    I'll also throw in here that whilst actually writing I usually have at least two monitors so I can throw the outline and notes I've gathered on one side and the story draft on the other. It lets me flip between the two without losing my train of thought.

    That combined with the ingrained typing skills that comes with using computers now-a-days has led me to the point where I can be finishing a sentence/paragraph in the draft while also looking at my notes and plotlines to keep up and make sure I'm both sticking to the story I've got and lets me know what's coming up next so I can mentally prepare while finishing the previous bit.

    I can't tell you how satisfying it is to be able to look at the plot line while still writing the previous bit. It gives me motivation because I can look at it and be all "Hey, that's gonna happen next? After what I just wrote I know how to make it happen and make it awesome. This is sweet." Repeat this over the course of an hour or two and that's my writing process for the most part.
     
  12. LittleChicago

    LittleChicago Headmaster DLP Supporter

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    I tend to just write the story down, which sounds like a cop-out, but there it is.

    I prefer pencil and paper to typing, but I'll take what's available. I jot down the story as it comes to me, each paragraph usually equaling a scene. It'll lay out what's happening and how each character is acting during the events.

    I'll also make notes on what each character is thinking, or what their ultimate motivation is, even if it's something I won't actually add to the story at that point.

    I try to leave space between each paragraph to go back and add, switch, replace or remove ideas.

    If the pages start looking ridiculously messy, I re-write the whole thing.

    As I type the draft, I'll keep notes that occur to me as I'm going in a separate paragraph at the bottom of the screen, and delete the appropriate parts of that paragraph as they are added to the story proper, but the original, hand-written tale will be at my elbow so that I don't forget anything.

    At this stage, the organic process takes over, and I just start typing while the info and direction I'm going is bouncing around in my head. Some of the best moments I've ever written were honestly just filler while I was waiting for the story to get on the track I wanted it to follow.

    Once it's done, I'll take a day or two and simply not look at it. Then, I'll go back for a read through with the original notes on hand to make sure everything makes sense and does what I wanted it to.
     
  13. Riley

    Riley Alchemist DLP Supporter

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    Here's a question: How many times do you re-read what you've written? Do you re-read as you write the draft or do you just power through and re-read it at the end?

    I try not to re-read until I'm done a draft, otherwise I get bored or I lose all thought on where it was going. That's why I keep a notestream that I can refer to so I don't have to search however much writing I've done for a single moment. Any thoughts or better ways to go about this?
     
  14. Ched

    Ched Da Trek Moderator DLP Supporter

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    I re-read when I finish a draft of a scene/section/chapter/whatever. I'll usually make some initial edits, to bash out the worst parts of it, then move on to the next bit. I'll re-read again at the end (of the "next biggest" bit -- so if I have 10 scenes in a chapter, I'll re-read each scene as I finish it, but will also re-read the chapter once it's done, etc.).
     
  15. Evon

    Evon Seventh Year

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    I have trouble with consistence, as my writing is constantly changing. I'm still working on nailing down a writing style and all that jazz. I usually have to reread my chapters from the top before I starting writing again, so that I can follow what I've written.

    Editing wise, I read the entire thing again a few times before I post it.
     
  16. Ched

    Ched Da Trek Moderator DLP Supporter

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    Some things I've found that I didn't mention before:

    "Phase Outlining" method -- there's some detail on it here around page 38.

    Phases are written out as key phrases that will bring the action into focus. A phase can be clues to dialogue, if that's what the section's focus is centered around, or it might be a little bit of description, or a set of actions... anything that will make the story move another few hundred words.
    Usually a 'phase' will only run from twenty to fifty words in the outline.
    These phases are then translated into bits of scenes. So a 50-word "phase" becomes a 500-word scene, etc. There are examples in the link.

    I don't think this would work well for me for a long story or series, but I might actually give it a try in November for NaNo since I don't consider 50k to be particularly long compared to many of my other aspirations. If I do the outline prior to Nov. 1 it might help smash out the required word count in a month.

    Software suggestions I've gotten:

    Microsoft OneNote and/or Evernote (these did nothing for me when I tried them initially, but they might be something someone else is interested in, also Evernote is free AFAIK)

    These two articles about software: Here and here

    Microsoft Visio -- I thought I had this installed on my computer but apparently I do not. After watching a video I am tempted to try it (apparently has some fantastic Flow Chart abilities)

    And if you're interested in Writing Software in general, try this thread on DLP -- though to see suggestions other than Scrivener you'll need to scroll down and/or go to the next page (yWriter, WriteMonkey, etc). Concerned about Grammar Software? This thread has you covered.
     
  17. Roarian

    Roarian High Inquisitor

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    I use pen & paper aside from just word files. I have one that's basically a long notes list for WaS for example, which includes quotes and relevant bits for all the major characters, as well as a sort of redux plot for what the villains are up to, which is crudely written and mostly just there for reference. Also this pad has a ton of little things from the comics so that I can slip some in when the opportunity presents itself, which is where about half of that comes from. (the other half is just due to my bottomless familiarity with a ton of ye olde comics...)

    The overall plot of all my stories (except for DSHND, actually) was written out before I started, though not in great detail. About four pages of text for the entire thing as a very basic summary. Most of my plots start out really insane and are whittled down to something that works: I find that if I do it the other way around, I forget to add actual stakes anywhere. (Sigh)

    Actually, I've tried a bunch of software options, but I only really use a spelling/grammar checker that lists my repetitive phrases and the like, since I'm prone to indulging in random word-overuse. It's rarely the same ones, either - a quirk of English as a secondary language, I suppose.
     
  18. Riley

    Riley Alchemist DLP Supporter

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    So.....have you written more WaS?
     
  19. Jormungandr

    Jormungandr Prisoner

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    Outlining is where I have the most trouble, I think.

    I usually have a gel-pen and notepad -a pocket one- to write random shit down in.

    On the computer? Either Notepad or GoogleDocs for when I'm doing shit (like alt-tabbing from a waiting SCII lobby), and when I'm not? Scrivener.

    That program is awesome.
     
  20. AlbusPHolmes

    AlbusPHolmes The Alchemist

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    Which checker is this? I'm assuming it's not the generic MSWord checker but if it is, is it a special setting that needs to be switched on or something?