Author Topic: Does outlining kill it for you?  (Read 4018 times)  

Offline Nathalie Hamidi

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Does outlining kill it for you?
« on: April 04, 2013, 10:41:02 AM »
Any time I try to outline, I feel like I've already told the story, and I don't feel like writing it.
Is there anyone here that feels the same? I would feel less lonely.  ;)


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Offline Just Another Writer

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Re: Does outlining kill it for you?
« Reply #1 on: April 04, 2013, 10:46:28 AM »
Me !!! * Pantsters unite!*

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Re: Does outlining kill it for you?
« Reply #2 on: April 04, 2013, 10:46:43 AM »
You're a long way from alone. There is a strong "pantster" contingent on the forum and I'm one of them. Does it kill the story for me? To some extent. It also bores me silly. I want to tell the story, not outline it. I did try it once and wrote the WORST novel I have ever done, one that is not for sale for good reason, so the big point is that outlining just doesn't work for me in producing good, publishable novels.

And for the people who say you can only write "tight" plots if you outline, I often receive comments on how tight and focused my plots are so... Take that for whatever it happens to be worth.  :D

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Re: Does outlining kill it for you?
« Reply #3 on: April 04, 2013, 10:48:13 AM »
I do when I first start writing. :) I can't outline. I just start. *high fives other pantsters!*

When I write series, like a deeper series, I have to outline a little. I start thinking ahead at scenes and need to write them down and organize them.

Sometimes when I get to those scenes, though, they end up completely different than what I originally imagined! It's crazy but things come out of characters and it completely changes the whole feel and perspective.

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Offline Nathalie Hamidi

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Re: Does outlining kill it for you?
« Reply #4 on: April 04, 2013, 10:48:27 AM »
I don't want this thread to be a war between pantsers and plotters, though.
Just thinking out loud why it is that us pantsers can't feel like outlining as a valid path.
Why do you think that is?


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Offline Catana

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Re: Does outlining kill it for you?
« Reply #5 on: April 04, 2013, 10:50:45 AM »
I don't outline because I'm not interested in controlling where my story will go. But I'm not a pantser, either. I usually make a ton of notes before I start writing, and arrange them in a rough order. But even that's always changing. It's no wonder you're bored if you try to get every detail in place before you even start writing.

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Re: Does outlining kill it for you?
« Reply #6 on: April 04, 2013, 10:51:08 AM »
I don't want this thread to be a war between pantsers and plotters, though.
Just thinking out loud why it is that us pantsers can't feel like outlining as a valid path.
Why do you think that is?
I've seen outliners say the same thing. I think it has to do with writers' insecurities. No one is every absolutely sure we're doing it "right" after all. So we are often publicly defensive of apparent criticism and internally questioning our own methods. I think that is true on both sides of the pantster/outliner divide.

Or that's my theory anyway.  ;)

ETA: And I wasn't criticizing outliners. What works for them works for them. Fine by me. I was simply saying why outlining doesn't work for me.
« Last Edit: April 04, 2013, 10:52:39 AM by JRTomlin »

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Re: Does outlining kill it for you?
« Reply #7 on: April 04, 2013, 10:52:09 AM »
I write a brief synopsis for each chapter than I write it out from there. Is that considered outlining? I always wondered when I read about in-depth plotting and outlining. Anyway, if what I do is outlining, it doesn't kill it for me. And the final manuscript doesn't end up resembling the outline anyway. Just helps to get me started.

Offline Just Another Writer

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Re: Does outlining kill it for you?
« Reply #8 on: April 04, 2013, 10:52:22 AM »
I don't want this thread to be a war between pantsers and plotters, though.
Just thinking out loud why it is that us pantsers can't feel like outlining as a valid path.
Why do you think that is?

For me if feels like if I outline the plot then I've told the story. It kills the magic, the muse, everything. Sometimes I actually wish I could outline because it's pretty scary being halfway into a novel and suddenly realizing you have no clue what is going to happen next.

But of course there is no right or wrong way. The right way is whatever works for you!

Offline Nathalie Hamidi

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Re: Does outlining kill it for you?
« Reply #9 on: April 04, 2013, 10:55:36 AM »
I've seen outliners say the same thing. I think it has to do with writers' insecurities. No one is every absolutely sure we're doing it "right" after all. So we are often publicly defensive of apparent criticism and internally questioning our own methods. I think that is true on both sides of the pantster/outliner divide.

Or that's my theory anyway.  ;)

The most I can endure is a very undetailed outline.

For example, for my last NaNo, I knew that I was going to serialize my books, so I knew I needed 6 episodes, each satisfying as a "standalone" (well, not really standalone standalone since you still need to read the previous ones to get the whole story, but it needed to have some sort of specific problem to deal with, and advance the plot at the same time--like tv show episodes).

I've drawn 6 frames on a white board and made sure each episode would be satisfying to read, and not just filler.

That's the extent of the plotting I can do: three or for concepts per episode.


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Offline Nathalie Hamidi

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Re: Does outlining kill it for you?
« Reply #10 on: April 04, 2013, 10:56:24 AM »
ETA: And I wasn't criticizing outliners. What works for them works for them. Fine by me. I was simply saying why outlining doesn't work for me.

Sorry if I made you feel like I said you did, I know you didn't.  :)


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Offline Kent Kelly

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Re: Does outlining kill it for you?
« Reply #11 on: April 04, 2013, 10:58:30 AM »
I need to outline because of the level of detail I put into world-building.  I can't say my creations are spectacular but they're deeply invested alternate worlds.  I've written 200 pages of material to get the dates in a 40-page sci fi story correct.  It's probably a result of a role-playing game background, I suppose.  ;D

The way I keep it fresh is to make the outline tantalizing in it's own way, a discovery of the material.  It's Carnavon's diary while excavating the tomb of King Tut, Indiana Jones' notebook, H.P. Lovecraft's commonplace book, Poe's dream journal.  It has a few of the facts, a lot of speculation and some off-color asides which need to be tossed out for a general audience.

Then, when I write the story, it's the archaeologist's vision of "what really happened," speculative dialogue and all.

Probably a strange approach but it keeps the entire writing process very interesting.

I'm good at tricking myself.  I have to be.   ::)

Offline Seanathin23

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Re: Does outlining kill it for you?
« Reply #12 on: April 04, 2013, 10:59:55 AM »
I write a brief synopsis for each chapter than I write it out from there. Is that considered outlining? I always wondered when I read about in-depth plotting and outlining. Anyway, if what I do is outlining, it doesn't kill it for me. And the final manuscript doesn't end up resembling the outline anyway. Just helps to get me started.

This is what I do, and for Fantasy or Sci-fi I might do a little world building before I start and draw a map as well.  I outline mostly because I have so many ideas going through my head, that I forget some good things and can go off the rails. Also the outline helps me fight the I don't know where to go next kind of writers block.

In the end of course everything is subject to change, and the outline is just me working though the story's broadest strokes in my head.


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Re: Does outlining kill it for you?
« Reply #13 on: April 04, 2013, 11:00:11 AM »
Exact opposite for me. If I don't outline, then I feel like I'm floundering and THAT kills it for me. I get panic-stricken when I don't know where my story is going, which leads me to freezing up. Instant writer's block.

Which just goes to show that we're all different and no one strategy is best.
 
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Offline Nathalie Hamidi

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Re: Does outlining kill it for you?
« Reply #14 on: April 04, 2013, 11:04:16 AM »
Exact opposite for me. If I don't outline, then I feel like I'm floundering and THAT kills it for me. I get panic-stricken when I don't know where my story is going, which leads me to freezing up. Instant writer's block.

Which just goes to show that we're all different and no one strategy is best.

Do you then have something else that kills it for you? If telling the story in the outline doesn't?


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Re: Does outlining kill it for you?
« Reply #15 on: April 04, 2013, 11:13:40 AM »
I've seen outliners say the same thing. I think it has to do with writers' insecurities. No one is every absolutely sure we're doing it "right" after all. So we are often publicly defensive of apparent criticism and internally questioning our own methods. I think that is true on both sides of the pantster/outliner divide.

Or that's my theory anyway.  ;)

ETA: And I wasn't criticizing outliners. What works for them works for them. Fine by me. I was simply saying why outlining doesn't work for me.

I think this (the highlighted sentence) is probably a big part of it.  I'm a pantser, and I feel that an outline would limit or constrain me in my storytelling.  I know logically that's not the case, but there it is.  On the other hand, outliners may feel every bit as uncomfortable in not having an outline as I do at the thought of having one.  So I do think it's a matter of comfort in the process of writing.  Personally I'd like to move a little farther along the spectrum... not to "full outline" level, but at least to a more organized note-taking stage.
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Offline JonDavis1

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Re: Does outlining kill it for you?
« Reply #16 on: April 04, 2013, 11:16:27 AM »
Yah, I tend to outline scenes, not books exactly for that reason.
For books, I just write out the very basics-cause and expected effects, and then go back to that when changes occur in the scenes.


Offline Jonathan C. Gillespie

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Re: Does outlining kill it for you?
« Reply #17 on: April 04, 2013, 11:18:49 AM »
Genre was touched on, and I think outlining definitely helps with genre fiction. If you're writing a romance novel, you don't run the risk of accidentally giving the protagonist a bioweapon inconsistent with the level of tech on Klaster IV.


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Re: Does outlining kill it for you?
« Reply #18 on: April 04, 2013, 11:21:17 AM »
Do you then have something else that kills it for you?

Stress at work. It just saps every ounce of fun out of the words, and makes it impossible to re-enter that world. At that point, it doesn't matter whether I'm outlining or going the pantster, it's gone. It's like sex. There are things that take you out of the rhythm that are kinda funny like of the dog jumps up on the bed while you're at it and starts sniffing around, but then there are things that kill it dead in its tracks that can't be recovered from. Stress at work isn't a dog you can shove off the bed or go running to one of the other bedrooms and close the door quickly behind you so he can't follow. It's a fog in the room that blinds the creative eye.

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Re: Does outlining kill it for you?
« Reply #19 on: April 04, 2013, 11:36:45 AM »
I think the main reason I don't like outlining (or at least, no more than an extremely vague idea of the overall plot and theme, and perhaps a better idea of where I'm going to start and what to put in the first chapter) is that I am easily bored and can only be interested enough to write if I think it's something new and shiny!
I also enjoy the serendipitous [?spelling] way ideas come to me if I'm making it up as I go along.

Offline Danni

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Re: Does outlining kill it for you?
« Reply #20 on: April 04, 2013, 11:40:34 AM »
The story unravels itself as I write it. I can't explain it, but I find it more exciting to discover the story in the writing process than to plan it out.
I outlined one book and got bored 2/4 in and quit. It felt like I was bumper bowling.

Offline Shaun4

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Re: Does outlining kill it for you?
« Reply #21 on: April 04, 2013, 11:45:30 AM »
I failed the first 5 times I tried to write a novel, because the outline made me think I had told the story, and I lost interest.

Now I use a basic outline: maybe 30 jot points, in order. You could fit my novel outline on a single piece of paper. I think knowing the ending tells you how to write the beginning.

BUT: as I go along, I start to discover things. I plant things that I know will pay off later. I end up adding to the outline as I go, knowing that I am setting up dominoes in the first half that will fall in the second half.

Before I do a rewrite, I go through every scene on index cards to make sure nothing is pointless and that I am paying off everything I planted. That second outline is HUGE and very helpful.

Offline RoseInTheTardis

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Re: Does outlining kill it for you?
« Reply #22 on: April 04, 2013, 11:53:50 AM »
I hate the term "pantser" but I think it's because I always picture someone running around pantsing people at random, rather than flying by the the seat of their pants. I'm weird.  :D

But yeah, outlining first doesn't work for me. I've really tried to do it first to help meet deadlines but all it does is make me feel the story is dull and predictable because, Look! It's right there!

I outline after I write my zero draft/exploratory draft, and then write to that (mostly.. when the characters do what I expect and don't run wild).

Offline Cherise

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Re: Does outlining kill it for you?
« Reply #23 on: April 04, 2013, 11:56:33 AM »
I don't want this thread to be a war between pantsers and plotters, though.
Just thinking out loud why it is that us pantsers can't feel like outlining as a valid path.
Why do you think that is?

Because we all have different personalities. We are even different biologically. Our brains are similar, but not identical, thank God!

Complete pantsing of fiction intimidates me. Maybe this is because I've been writing non-fiction all my life. That, I can pants and wouldn't do any other way. Fiction, though, I have to have a one-page map of where I'm going. For my first novel, this was just the diagram on Wikipedia's page for the Hero's Journey.



The sequel is not a hero's journey, though. It's a bro-mance (hero and villain become best buddies). I'm using the map of a basic romance for this one.


Offline Zachery Richardson

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Re: Does outlining kill it for you?
« Reply #24 on: April 04, 2013, 12:37:21 PM »
See, this is an interesting conversation for me, because I honestly don't know where on this pantser/plotter spectrum I sit. I have one novel series in the works that I basically have to outline first because the story is easily the most complicated one I've come up with so far. Yet on the other hand, the novella I'm finishing up? I wrote it completely by the seat of my pants and it was awesome! The story however, is pretty straightforward.

I guess in the end, my being a pantser or plotter depends on how complex my story/world is.