I’m currently 2.5 weeks into my outlining exercise. An exercise I was GREATLY dreading to even try, and I must say it started very rocky. I’m a discovery writer by nature. I have a scene in my head and I HAVE to write it down… like now! But I see the value in an outline, especially when I hit transition scenes that I tend to get stuck on. Areas where my characters need to get from one scene in my head to the next. I often stop writing a story for a while when I hit these points, I’m stumped on how to continue.
Here is a basic road map of how I went about this adventure.
I started by making notes of things that important to know about the world this story will be set in. General dates, population aspects, technology, transportation, major powers that be. I also looked figured out the past, present, and future of this world.
I know I would have 4 main characters so I made bullets on gender, looks, likes/dislikes, motivation, role, and personality. Then the same with the world building I made quick notes of their past, present, and future.
I got part way through this, and I was not liking it at all. I found it very difficult to fill in all the spots I created bullets for. I could not grasped a feel for ‘who’ these characters actually were and how they would move my story along.
So I came to a quick conclusion that Outlining is Hard and I did not like it. But that is not the end of the story, of course. I knew I was not going to like outlining, yet I made a goal (and a deadline) to get this particular story started with an outline. I would force it if need be.
I took a break and thought about the story for awhile. I had a general idea of what the story line would follow. I think a lot in the car since I have a long commute to and from work. The music would be turned off and I would talk to myself about ideas, about this world, and about these people.
With these new ideas I went back at it, knowing my deadline was fast approaching. I had a few more areas I could fill in (mainly on the characters) and I decided to just jump into the Outline itself
I once listened to Mary Robinette Kowal reading her outline on a new story. It was basically small synopsis for that scene. There was never a ton a detail but you were able to see how the story would run its course and how the paths connected.
I approached my outline the same way. Forcing myself to only give enough details so that I would know what I wanted to achieve in each scene. It also left me enough room to easily discover these scenes when I do a full write through.
This is where I flew.
In a way, it was very much like the Discovery Writing that I’m so fond of, but I was able to get through the entire story in just a few days. The ideas flowed, the scenes created pictures in my mind, expanding the story, world, and people right before my eyes. I would fill in my Notes for the story as I wrote, fleshing out each piece as I found it within my outline.
If I got stuck in a place, I made a note of it and moved on to the next scene I knew was needed. Later I would realize what I could do in my blank areas and world go back to add. I was pretty linear for most of the story. I was surprise by the amount of ‘unknown’ I was able to figure out while doing it this way. It was also very easy to go back and add points like foreshadowing or character development points.
The hardest part was trying to keep vague so I could continue and get the full Outline done ;P
I’m not technically done, but I have most everything in place. I feel like the climax is none existent and I need to do away with the main villain, but I’m calling the outline just about done at this point. I’m sure (as with any story) I’ll go back through it a few times, add, subtract, and expand areas. I’ll fix the couple filler areas I still have and figure out the climax but all in all, I’d call it a success.
Best part is, I’m now wanting to do a similar approach to another story. I feel I might skip out the part about gathering notes before hand too much. Maybe just set it up to be filled out as I write the outline but I think that might be my trade off for being a Discovery writer writing an Outline, lol.