Monday, 18 May 2009

About Outlining

I never used to outline my stories. I've always liked writing by the seat of my pants and not knowing where I'm going to end up. Trouble is I usually ended up nowhere, hopelessly confused or up the creek without a paddle.

Eventually I realised that if I was ever going to finish a story I was going to have outline at least the basics of the plot.

The thing was I didn't have the faintest idea how to write an Outline and, to be honest, a lot of writing books gloss over that bit. I tried writing my story in the present tense in a page or two of A4, which was what most of them seemed to suggest. It just didn't work for me. I tried writing single paragraph summaries of each chapter - that was a little better, but not good enough.

So I threw myself on the mercy of the Internet and consulted the great oracle Google. What I found was that there are a great many ways of outlining and while all of them suited some writers none of them suited every writer.

Yay! I wasn't a failure I just needed to find the right method or methods. So I set out to try and find a method of outlining that suited me - and in the end I did. More than one actually.

It's probably significant that all the stories I have finished have been the ones I outlined. I've come to think of outlining as important this last couple of years.

Having said that I don't write super-tight outlines even now. There'a lot of wiggle room and the characters still slip the leash and surprise me sometimes. That's part of the fun for me though. What they don't do is suddenly throw up roadblocks to story progression that rival mount Everest any more.

However I'm not going to sit here and tell you how I outline, it's someone elses method and they deserve the credit. So without further ado here is a list of links to helpful sites about Outlining methods - not all of these methods worked for me, but that doesn't mean they won't work for you.

  • Notecarding - This is absolutely my favourite method of outlining - and it works just as well with postit notes on a wall as it does with notecards on the carpet. :-)
  • Outline Your Novel In Thirty Minutes - I like this one too. I use it for outlining more character driven stories and you really can get a basic outline writen in thirty minutes to an hour.
  • Snowflaking - I've never actually been able to pull this one off. I like it in theory, but somehow I never quite get it to work. It's a good method though and a lot of people swear by it. I'm going to give it another go when I outline my Nano 2009 novel in September.
  • It's Just a Phase - To be honest I don't really get on with this one, but it works for its creator and a lot of other people. It's just matter of taste and it might be more to your taste than it is mine.
  • Novel Outlining 101 - This looks like a form of the chapter summarising method to me. As I said it'd never really worked for me, but again it works for a lot of people. And I love the way the creator actually demonstrated it by outlining her post first.
Five links. That's probably more than enough to get you started. Hope you found this post helpful.