What's your outline process like?

5 months ago | Is_Generally_Hostile (Member)

Pretty simple - I'm trying to work on something new, and I've got a core concept I think is fun that I want to work with, but I'm having trouble getting going in the right direction and I was just wondering how everyone goes about laying the ground work for their own work. I've done some reading about various methods on line, but haven't seen anything that feels right for me, so I was hoping to pick brains and test out the methods other people here use personally.

Check out my shitty web serial at http://TheComatoseGirl.wordpress.com

Read responses...


  1. Stable (Member)

    Posted 5 months ago

    I'm either a discovery writer - no plan - or at most a bunch of pencil scrawls on a sheet of A4. Either way, you dont; necessarily need a huge outline if it doesn't naturally work for you.

    The Archive Of Unusual Events
  2. Is_Generally_Hostile (Member)

    Posted 5 months ago

    I've been trying the whole discovery/gardener thing and that hasn't been working too well for me. I've found myself writing into a corner and having to pull something contrived out of the hat to resolve it.

    Check out my shitty web serial at http://TheComatoseGirl.wordpress.com
  3. Stable (Member)

    Posted 5 months ago

    I'm literally watching Brandon Sanderson's lectures right now and he just said something like "It's OK to just pull a new power out of nowhere as a discovery writer, just go back and edit some buildup in first." Obviously that's harder to do when you've already published the previous chapters in a web serial, but yeah. ;)

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jXAcA_y3l6M About halfway through if you're interested.

    The Archive Of Unusual Events
  4. gloomybear86 (Member)

    Posted 5 months ago

    I'm a discovery writer. Sometimes I'll have general ideas about a scene that I want to include and I'll write in that direction but, generally speaking, I don't know what I'm going to write until I'm writing it. That works out okay because my serial is realistic fiction; if I wrote superhero stories, I don't know that I'd be able to keep myself from Deus Ex-ing my way out of every corner I found myself in.

    For Riches or More: You can't always steal what you want.
  5. Shaeor (Member)

    Posted 5 months ago

    Now, I say I'm a Pantser when asked. But that's not entirely true. The thing I'd suggest for you, and that I do myself. Best advice I've got. It's to build a skeleton. Have in mind your themes, beginning, end, AND every joint in-between. It's been really great to have arcs, for me. Basic beats to mark my moves in pacing and story. To progress to that final note.

    Something I've wondered about when discussing writing help before is the way in which people differ. In plot progression.

    Personally, I'm very 'on-task'. Always working towards the moments in my head which mark the character arcs, story arc. Everything towards that. They can change, but they're like a map. You know where you're going, but you've never been there before. New sights abound.

    I've been happy with the result and it's been pretty easy, truthfully. Because even though I discover how things will happen, I know pretty well what kind of thing will happen. Write summaries which get reworked.

    Cool thread. My advice, figure out what you're writing towards and for. And hold onto that. Good luck, Generally_Hostile!

    CHOSEN SHACKLES The screen is running static. Face your shadow.
    DIRGE The light is dying. Hold your breath and go gently.
  6. Walter (Member)

    Posted 5 months ago

    Work backwards. Start with whatever is cool in your mind about the story and then make up the stuff that allows this to happen.

    Black trenchcoat holds out hands to stop bullets means you need to put some background down, but the Matrix is born from the 'wow these dudes are so cool' feeling.

  7. LadyAnder (Member)

    Posted 5 months ago

    I'm a discovery writer to a point. Usually I tend to have a lot of groundwork done in my head and some on paper so I know where I am going. Usually I have characters, setting, and plot established. This extend varies. Sometimes I will write out a very vague timeline if I need some guidance for a more complex story. Usually stories told in more than one POV for example.

    A slice-of-life fantasy novel--> https://hyruhhaserial.wordpress.com/
  8. Bequail (Member)

    Posted 5 months ago

    I personally find discovery, seat of the pants writing far more satisfying than structured writing. It keeps me excited, and I probably can't count the number of times I've had mini epiphanies in the middle of writing sessions that give me new solutions, dialogue, conflicts, etc, that can stem from the chapter I'm writing. Of course, serial writing can be tricky since you can't go back and edit, unless you've written up your entire edited manuscript and you're just releasing it one chunk at a time.

    I feel like there's this belief that you have to either be a discovery writer or an avid planner. Maybe try something in the middle? A little planning wouldn't hurt, just not so much that you don't allow yourself wiggle room. Perhaps write a scene having a list of vague bullet points you want to hit, to be changed as you see fit, and go from there. Spontaneity with a destination in mind!

  9. Jim Zoetewey (Moderator)

    Posted 5 months ago

    I tend to create a general outline while simultaneously daydreaming scenes that I might put into the story. The general outline isn't that specific. It's usually three points long with a description of the overall action in each section.

    I think about an opening scene and start writing that scene. I then deal with the aftermath of that scene and ask how the main characters would respond. At the same time I keep in mind the overall plan and ask myself how to follow it, bearing in mind the natural inclinations of the characters involved.

    Where appropriate, I slip in the scenes that I've been daydreaming--except when the scenes no longer work because the actual story has made them unusable and irrelevant.

    Because I write from 900-1000 words per update, this generally means I know what happens at least three updates ahead of the one I'm writing, allowing me to always have a target to write toward. Because I've got a fairly abstract general outline though, I'm seldom writing exactly toward a specific ending--until 3000 words before that ending.

    That said, I'm always thinking about the scenes I wrote previously (specifically what I left unexplained or unfinished), so I'm also building on what I wrote earlier. Thus, the endings are always the completion of what came before, but I didn't necessarily plan for that exact thing that happened. At the same time, I may well have daydreamed out details about that ending for much of the period I've been writing the book, so specific moments of the ending are very well planned (but never appeared in the outline).

    For me, it's very close to how I ran roleplaying games. That's to say, I'd have an overall plan and expect it to get derailed or changed at any given moment, but then use the random zigs and zags to create a greater and less predictable whole.

  10. unice5656 (Member)

    Posted 5 months ago

    ^That's exactly how I write, except my chapters are 2000-3000 words long, so I never know what's going to happen next, haha. So many times when my characters ran off and did their own thing, destroying my daydreamed scenes, but it's a fun ride :)


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