What Outlining Taught Me
By Patti Larsen
Let’s talk about outlining, shall we? All you pantsers might want to put aside your rose colored glasses for a few minutes and see if plotting is really the horrid creativity killer you really think it is.
I beg to differ. And while I know there are writers who absolutely MUST fly by their seat, the benefits of good plotting can’t be denied.
May I say first I was born a pantser and insisted on writing from the deepest pits of my soul from the moment an idea hit me. I was one of you, once upon a time, a dreamer, certain any amount of plotting would only serve to sever my connection to my muse and drive all of my work into the darkest pit of crap.
A big thank you to Peter Damien for stopping by and giving us his take on outlining…well sort of. You know Peter. Enjoy!
The danger with outlining can be that in the process of outlining, you put down the ideas that excited you in the form of an outline, it satisfies the urge to write that idea, and you never feel the need to get further than the outline. Basically, you’ve told the joke to yourself and that’s it. It can be awfully disappointing.
How life changes our outlining approach
By Natalie C. Markey
As a writer and an overall control freak, I love to outline. So naturally I was excited to hear that author Elizabeth Sogard was focusing on outlining in October with her series, ‘Outlining October.’ I was even more excited and honored that she asked me to contribute to this series. Thank you Liz!
First of all, as writers we all outline to a certain degree, even if you are a classic “pantster.” Your outline may be as simple as the idea in your head or as detailed as an excel spreadsheet that could put a tax accountant to shame. The point is, that we writers like control. After all, we are the masters of our own universes. I just love saying that! But the fact is there are countless ways to outline and the truth is there is no right or wrong way to approach it. The real answer can be found in learning what works best for you and that can even change in accordance to where you are in your life and if you switch from another genre. I’m a classic example.
You know where your story starts. You know where you want it to end. Your outline is all the “stuff” that goes in between. Don’t make it harder on yourself than it needs to be. Everyone does it a little differently. I usually write my outline like a very boring short story.
Hairy short man is given a magical ring
He must take it to the elves to dispose of it
The elves aren’t any help.
Others join him on a dangerous mission to destroy said ring.
There are obstacles a long the way (think trolls, evil wizards, and creepy creations)
The others crave the ring for themselves and the group is disbanded.
One, a true friend stays and my MC reluctantly accepts.
Together they take off and fight more obsticles. And there are some people who will help and die.
My MC goes crazy and wants to keep the ring, but something happens the ring is destroyed anyway. (come on you know that Tolkein didn’t know that a creepy toad of a man would bite off Frodo’s finger and fall into the one thing that could destroy the ring)
At this point you know the bones of your story. These things will likely never change.
Now break them apart.
Here is an example of a cause and reaction outline while keeping the theme always at the forefront of the mind. Cause and reaction is the easiest way to keep your plot line moving.
Cause: Tommy sees a commercial on TV that he desperately wants. His dad just lost his job and his mom is the sole support on a maids wages. The toy costs $100 dollars but his parents have too many bills. You have your motivation, and your problem, so in essence you have your cause. Tommy wants an expensive toy.
It doesn’t do Tommy any good to want something and not tell someone. Reaction: He tells his parents who both look sad when they explain that it might have to wait. Tommy isn’t any good at waiting. He wants his toy now. Explore his emotional state.
Cause: Jealousy. Tommy goes to school and every one is talking about the toy. Here is where you can get some specifics on it in a way that is telling not showing. It launches darts that stick to anything! Bobby tells him at length all the things it stuck to. He really wants the toy now.