I had a habit (yes, I have many) of letting my English teachers read my poetry and short stories as a way of getting on their good sides. Hey, I struggled for my grades. I needed to use anything I could to get an advantage. Anyway, Mrs Oken, after reading a compilation of poems and stories, asked me to stay after class one day. She wanted to know what my outlining process was and I said... "Oh, I don't outline." And she said, "What? You must! Real writers outline and if you want to be a real writer, you must outline too." Well, I grabbed my papers and puffed out my chest and said, "I just write," and left.
Obviously, this had some affect on me, if here I am still writing about it some er... harrumph... well, a few short years later... And so, I have carried on in my stubborn (but adorable) way of 'just writing.' I hang my head low and must admit defeat... Yes, Mrs. Oken, real writers outline... *sniff, wiping tears*
Truthfully, real writers do a myriad of things. And every writer's process is completely and utterly unique. I have written many times, about owning your process and being proud of it. And I still hold that I am. However, I must admit, the "just writing" process can only take you so far when you are writing a novel, especially if you wish your novel to be one of many in a series. You NEED to outline.
And not that you need to adhere to this outline like the gospel, or that your characters don't have the right to change your outline... but you need a plan, a road map, if you will, something to drive you forward, something so that when you are in the dark, murky depths of novel writing, you can say, AHA! Wait a moment, don't I have that nightlight somewhere! Ah, yes! Here it is, my outline! (I picture saying that in the superhero stance and for some reason I am wearing a cape - I don't know why...)
So, I have begun a pre-outlining process. I actually began it over the summer. Here's what I did...
- I read from the beginning to my current latest page (pg 85 - which is as far as I got w/o an outline, trying to remember everything in my brain, instead of in an outline...). I took copious notes. I included every time a new character was introduced and on what page. I wrote down sentences that sounded like foreshadowing, or that I definitely wrote as foreshadowing on purpose. I wrote down any objects used by my MC that could have significance and be used later. I wrote down holes in my plot, questions that seemed unanswered, and things that led to questions in general. Finally, I wrote down things I must add/delete/change for subsequent drafts and things I must research.
- Then I pretended I was each major character and jotted down all the questions I could think of off the top of my head for that character to answer.
- This week I have been answering all these unanswered questions. Anytime I came to a plot hole, I began by asking more questions... what could T do to stop LB from succeeding? What would happen if T did this... what would happen if T did that... And I wrote it out until I felt it was a satisfying answer to this plot hole or question.
I am just about finished with this ever-growing brainstorming session. Next, I will begin to outline. I will be outlining chapter by chapter, summarizing the ones I've written already and truly outlining the ones I've yet to write. I will want to capture certain aspects, such as... what characters are in the scene, does the scene move the story forward, is there an emotion rise and fall to the scene, does it raise the stakes, does it present more obstacles for my MC or solutions to previous obstacles, has anything been foreshadowed, any objects used or hinted on, etc.
I have read about some choices for outlining on many of your blogs . Now I want to know, what forms work particularly well for you? I've heard of a friend who buys those large desk calendars, you know - the ones teachers use... and he uses each month as a sequence of scenes (this is based on screenplay writing though) There are 12 sequences of scenes in a movie. Each sequence is made up of a number of scenes. I think this could relate though, somewhat to novel writing too. I am a visual learner, so I like the idea of having the whole story laid out before me visually like this... So, let's share... what outlining techniques have worked for you time and time again. Or... what outlining techniques have not worked for you...