Thursday, March 3, 2011

To Outline or Not to Outline?

So one of the biggest things I discuss with my friends (at least my fellow authors) is the beginning process.  Everyone does it differently.  And between gossiping about boys and clothes, we each break down how we start our novel.  Seeing as how I've just begun my second novel in the Theo Bourne Series, I've decided that now would be a good time to discuss outlining processes.  See, it isn't all about sex.

So the question is: to outline or not to outline?  Good ol' Bill, I bet he never knew his one little quote would be butchered so horrifically.

In the end, it all depends on how you're comfortable.  I know authors who don't outline.  They get an idea and after working it through their heads, they start writing.  Whatever comes, comes.  If you're comfortable with that (I know I'm not) than you can definitely just ignore this post.

If you're someone that likes outlining, than maybe I can shed a bit of advice.  There are hundreds of ways to outline, but I've found the two major ones are minor outlines and detailed.  I've done them both and I prefer the detailed.  I feel more in control.

I'll just give a brief breakdown of each forum:

Minor Outlines

This is when you just need a general direction to go with your story.  Minor outlines for me consist of key points that will happen through out the story, major arcs.  General I don't do a chapter breakdown with minor outlines.  I have a list of characters, places, and a series of events.  Usually ten.  Minor outlines gives you a lot of elbow room to shift things around, without feeling too tied down to the plot.  This is great for someone who doesn't like to sit down and work out the entire plot in one go.  If you're a writer who wings it through the chapters, then I'd suggest this form of outlining.

Detailed Outlines

Detailed outlines are far more extensive.  For me, this is an entire breakdown of the story.  It sometimes ties you down to the plot (than again, maybe that's just me!) but it also gives you a clear view from beginning to end.  You always have room to change the plot, never forget that.  With a detailed, I break the entire story down from chapter to chapter.  Each chapter has a list of major events that are going to happen.  I also include days/time/seasons (whatever is relevant, important to note) and a list of places and characters.  I find that with a detailed outline I have a clear view of where I'm going and I can't stray from the plot.  It also helps me prevent events from getting confused/obscured/forgotten.  For me, I have a tendency to forget what I write unless I look back.  So with a detailed outline, I have the ability to go back and take a peek of what happened the previous chapter without actually having to reread the entire chapter.

I actually do both a minor and detailed outline.  I use the minor to help place the larger events through out the story, breaking them down into each chapter.  In the end, it's what you're comfortable with.  There are plenty of other ways to outline.  This is just how I roll! :)

A good resource for writing tips is Janet Evanovich's How I Write.  I'd also check out Writer's Digest Magazine, which is loaded with oodles of tips for you lovely chickadees!

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