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Monday, April 12, 2010


I've started working on the next section of Twisted Metal, and I've found my imagination running ahead of my fingers. About five chapters ahead, which is why I started an outline. Here's a quick look at how I do it.

The Outline consists of a few main plot points, major action, and sometimes a description or piece of DL that I don't want to forget. For Twisted Metal the plot goes:

1- Location - Major situation
-> Minor Plot Point
-> Minor action
-> Minor action
-> -> FMC: "Quippy bit here."

2 - Location - Major Situation...

The advantage of writing an outline is that you an pin down ideas before you have a chance to write the scene. The inherent disadvantage is that everyone will have their own opinions on outlines, and how much you need to include.

When I started writing full-time again a well-meaning friend sent me her outlining method. It had the standard Who, What, Where, When, Why and added Conflict, Emotion, Theme to the list. As detailed as the outline was, it didn't work for me. My brain just can't wrap around that layout of information.

Another friend uses note cards and plot puzzles to outline. She writes down the main theme or idea and then brainstorms around that idea. After that, she lays out the scene with, adding information from the brainstorm to make the connecting links.

I've tried that approach too, it didn't work as well as I'd hoped.

There are other people who won't outline at all, choosing instead to just write and see what happens. I can't fault that approach, until my brain runs ahead of my hands. That's when I need an outline.

What about you? How do you outline? What method works best for organizing your thoughts, and why?


  1. Outlining...is a work in progress for me.

    For my current wip, I wrote the first draft nearly 2 years ago.

    I looked at it, and figured out in my head what I wanted to change.

    I then went through it with my highlighting method. Once I'd done that...I actually did go and create an outline.

    I don't always do this. Often I just keep the outline in my head, off the computer. But I had huge timing issues with the 4 pov characters and needed to get everything straight in my head. It helped me see the glaring plot holes (some were major).

    Sure, now I'm writing the next draft I deviate a lot from the Grand Master Plot (or outline). However, outlining really helped me in this stage of revision.

    That might be as clear as mud. I think I'll try outlining wips before writing them in the future. Muse will deviate when she wants to.

  2. After much trial and error, I've found that one sentence scene outlines work best for me, as Holly Lisle describes in her revision course. Basically, I write one sentence per scene, that always uses the same format:

    Protagonist and antagonist doing something in some setting and then a twist happens.

    I like this because while it results in some really awful sentences, it forces me to condense my idea for a scene down into it's most basic parts, and ensures all the elements are there before I start writing. I don't expand on the sentences, even if I have an idea of how it will go, because it inevitably changes while I'm writing. This sort of gives me the freedom to write the scene however it wants to go at the time, but keep it from straying *too* far off the main plot line.

    I've tried notecards, sticky notes, plot boards, spreadsheets...but what works is just this simple outline, in a document on the computer, then printed out to refer to as I'm writing. Simple, with lots of wiggle room for my "pantser" nature. :-)

  3. Nayuleska-= The highlighter method intrigues me. How does that work?

    Jamie- I'll have to try giving each scene a sentence. I could see having issues with that in Twisted Metal just because the protagonist is her own worst enemy in some cases.

  4. For my current WiP, the outline consists of "1 (or whatever number): So-and-so etc. go do this."

    That's pretty much it. My last WiP was a little more detailed in outline. Chapter titles followed by multiple points that had to occur in that chapter. I knew a lot more of what was coming in that one. But that's pretty much what my brain can handle.