How do you plot/outline?
I’m curious about people’s ways of outlining. At first I thought I *should* . . .
There’s no *should* in plotting. Everyone’s different. I need to plot – I get stuck without it. In other words, writer’s block. Fahim, also a writer, doesn’t plot because that gums up his internal processes. You *should* do whatever works for you, and that may be different from every other writer in existence. That’s lesson number one.
. . . plot everything because the story seemed too complicated to hold in my head, but I found it bogged me down and I got writer’s block. I looked at the snowflake method and it was helpful to a point – mainly in forcing me to define my thesis statement – but I just couldn’t think as linearly as that system seems to require. Perhaps I have it wrong and it’s more intuitive than I was experiencing?
You’re the only one who can answer that. It’s individual. If that method doesn’t work for you – if it just doesn’t feel right – then that’s enough. It’s time for you to try something else.
Having said that, there’s nothing wrong with cannibalizing bits and pieces of this method and that method – those pieces that work for you – to come up with something uniquely yours.
For me, even though I plot, I don’t stick with the plot if the story changes directions. A plot to me is a guideline only, not a prison sentence. But I plot because my memory sucks and I have a hard time keeping everything in my head. Sometimes, with these changes in directions, it also changes the order things happen in. Or characters are completely different than I originally planned them. No big deal. I work with it.
Then I realized that the characters actually wanted a different story. So now I’m still at the same point I was two months ago, with a beginning a middle and end, but a different story, and a sense that I can actually write this one.
And this shows that you’re getting closer. Excellent!
The only thing that is different – but it’s hugely different – is that I’m no longer trying to write the story linearly, i.e., from chapter 1 forward, because that’s not how it’s coming to me. For example, I found out that as soon as I gave myself permission this morning to write a scene that’s perhaps two-thirds into the story, immediately the beginning of chapter 2 revealed itself (something I’ve been struggling with for a few weeks now) and it’s entirely different from anything I imagined.
This happens to me, too. I try to work in order, and it usually works. But when my brain gets tired or bored, it’s time to try something else. So I might skip around to another chapter near the end or. . . well, wherever. And that can free up the creativity for me, too. And sometimes, it helps to have another project on the go and skip to that one. That also works for me.
I have a lot of outline notes, but they hardly seem to matter right now.)
Then don’t bother looking at them again. They may have been useful, they may not. You’ll find that out as time goes by and you try other methods.
Lesson number two is that you try something, see how it works, and if it doesn’t fit, you try something else. And so on, and so on, and so on. Go by intuition and what feels right. If a particular method seems to work well for you, even if it seems completely illogical, go with it. We should not be ruled solely by logic. We’re creative people, so why can’t this process also be creative?
Lesson number three is that different stories might require different methods. I’m saying might only because I haven’t fine tuned the whole process enough and worked on enough stories to really know that this is true or not true. But it strikes me as a possibility.
Try things out and recognize when things don’t work for you. Then try something else.
May we all have productive and enjoyable days writing!
- BIW for Feb 2005 starts today
- I Sometimes Wonder. . .
- Planning Time
- To plot or not to plot, that is the question.
- How do you get started writing a novel?
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