Author Topic: Holy cow. In-depth outlining a series works.  (Read 898 times)  

Offline Decon

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Holy cow. In-depth outlining a series works.
« on: July 19, 2020, 06:23:01 am »
Edit: 1st August. Just to update. 1st book completed at 88,000 words. 2k short of target but within planned range. That's just over 3 weeks from start to finish after the outline. Onto the second book.



Okay, not trying to be contentious here as I have written by the seat of my pants and it's worked. I've also outlined to a smaller degree and that has worked. But nothing can compare with the productivity of the in-depth outlining I've completed. Nothing comes even close. Even outlining leaves room for pantsing within chapters, but at least it has the structure laid out. You can also swap chapters around, add or delete them as you go if needed. I've already made few changes, but still kept the purpose, so the outline doesn't have to be set in stone.

I hadn't written anything for around 2 years, having lost my mojo and put to one side 4 standalone WIPs that were a good way into the stories. Then recently I came up with a big idea for a trilogy, but the story just grew in my head to 4 books. I wondered if having put the WIPs to one side if it was because I'd run out of steam, not knowing where they were heading. So, anyway, I decided to outline all four books before contemplating to give writing another effort. Also, I want to complete all 4 books to publish them at the same time.

Okay, so I can write full time if I'm so minded and not everyone has that luxury. Anyway, before I knew it within a week, I'd written the outline of all 4 books in the new series consisting of 20,000 words give or take. Phew. I had the draft blurbs to know they had legs for the genre, mockup covers for each as further motivation and the series name and titles. The World outline and how it would change as it related to the story. Created various maps as to how this World would change. Listed all character backgrounds and traits that were relevant to the story, even including a dog and a pickup truck, together with character arcs to include which ones would change. Also how they related to each other and which ones would be killed off. A full outline or synopsis for each book. Copies of all the links I'd researched for reference. And finally, a list of 60 chapters for each book with the purpose of each to a three-act structure.

That's a lot of effort, but 2 weeks later and I'm at chapter 40 of the first book at 60,000 words, ten chapters of those in the last 2 days (15,000 words or so.) I just can't believe how fast I'm churning it out and managing to do some editing to boot. I just can't imagine how I could back myself into a corner with writer's block doing it this way.

I know there is software out there you can use, but I prefer to work with my outline printed and at the side of me, but no doubt outlining software is if use.

I just wished I'd learned how to outline earlier. Even for standalone books.

Just thought I'd share this with you as I know many don't consider outlining.

Edit: Just one other note, most of my other books, I'd considered writing as a character series, but never got past the standalone books. One of them was even meant to be a trilogy, but I bottled it and it had a good conclusion anyway, even though it still could be the first of a trilogy.  Regardless, I'll report back on progress every time I finish one of the new series books to see if I can maintain the productivity I have experienced so far.




« Last Edit: August 01, 2020, 08:51:58 am by Decon »


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    Offline LauraWestbrook

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    Re: Holy cow. In-depth outlining a series works.
    « Reply #1 on: July 19, 2020, 06:50:17 am »
    Nice going! Outlining is a wonderful thing. : )

    When you say publish all at once, do you mean a quick release with a few weeks in-between or literally publishing all 4 books in the series at the same time?












    Offline Decon

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    Re: Holy cow. In-depth outlining a series works.
    « Reply #2 on: July 19, 2020, 07:14:57 am »
    Nice going! Outlining is a wonderful thing. : )

    When you say publish all at once, do you mean a quick release with a few weeks in-between or literally publishing all 4 books in the series at the same time?


    I'll be publishing them all at the same time. As a series, though they each have a conclusion, there is an arc over all four books that ends with the last book. There will be no more of this series. It's as I said, it should have been a trilogy, but the story was too big. I'm not saying quick realease doesn't work, just that in this case I don't think it's appropriate.  If it was a character series, like a Harry Bosch series of standalones, then yes, I'd go for rapid release over a period. Here is my reasoning for publishing them all on the same day:

    First of all, I've seen so many times authors put out the first in a series, never to complete the rest through say a lack of sales with the first book which has demotivated them to continue writing the series.

    Secondly, when an author puts out a book as the first of a series, readers don't always have the confidence to buy as the author might not be around to complete the series to buy it knowing it will be part of a series.

    Thirdly, If I'm to market the series, then it will be targeted at the first book with the blurb, cover thumbnail and 1st chapter of the next book at the back, I want them to be able to move onto the 2nd and so on to make the marketing effort and budget worthwhile.

    Lastly, I want to be able to put out an omnibus edition at the same time if the word count is within page read limits.



    « Last Edit: July 19, 2020, 07:31:47 am by Decon »


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    Offline VisitasKeat

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    Re: Holy cow. In-depth outlining a series works.
    « Reply #3 on: July 19, 2020, 07:43:28 am »
    That's inspiring!

    I outline only for my cozy mystery series as the timestamps of events are crucial to crack the case. In my fantasy series, however, timestamps have no role to play. So, doing a rough outline in the cozy manuscript helps. I just create the toc with 1, 2, 3... etc, and write my initial thoughts in the appropriate chapters. Even then, a lot of tweaking happens, a lot of shuffling of chapters, cuts and pastes, even changing the very crucial timestamps. Because, unless these things are done, how can there be justification of the concrete evidence while doing a posthumous analysis of the story?
    Even writing an advance blurb with chapter titles would help. The case could be explained by simply writing down the chapter titles.

    So, in my opinion, outline is the ideal choice for timestamp-intensive stories, whatever be the genre.


    Offline Decon

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    Re: Holy cow. In-depth outlining a series works.
    « Reply #4 on: July 19, 2020, 07:52:21 am »
    That's inspiring!

    I outline only for my cozy mystery series as the timestamps of events are crucial to crack the case. In my fantasy series, however, timestamps have no role to play. So, doing a rough outline in the cozy manuscript helps. I just create the toc with 1, 2, 3... etc, and write my initial thoughts in the appropriate chapters. Even then, a lot of tweaking happens, a lot of shuffling of chapters, cuts and pastes, even changing the very crucial timestamps. Because, unless these things are done, how can there be justification of the concrete evidence while doing a posthumous analysis of the story?
    Even writing an advance blurb with chapter titles would help. The case could be explained by simply writing down the chapter titles.

    So, in my opinion, outline is the ideal choice for timestamp-intensive stories, whatever be the genre.

    My books arn't cozy, they are more hard edged crime thrillers, so I understand what you are saying of keeping track of events and times and how one action can have a relation to another later in the book and time lines are so important, together with planting red herrings etc. I've managed to do that in my early books. When the new series is completed I hope to go back to my WIP stories and to outline them in the same way so I can finish them. For now, I don't even want to open the files or they'd be a distraction.
    « Last Edit: July 19, 2020, 07:56:53 am by Decon »


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    Online Gareth K Pengelly

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    Re: Holy cow. In-depth outlining a series works.
    « Reply #5 on: July 19, 2020, 08:03:07 am »
    I outline, roughly, before I start a novel, mainly just so I know which of the recurring cast of characters I'm going to shine the limelight on this time round. A rough timeline, various big events, who the big bad is and how they're going to beat him.

    It usually goes all out of the window by about chapter two and I revert back to making it all up as I go along. Sigh.

    Offline jvin248

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    Re: Holy cow. In-depth outlining a series works.
    « Reply #6 on: July 19, 2020, 08:07:43 am »
    .

    The usual break points for many writers happen at 25% and 75% of a story if pantsing it. That's because there are so many options at the start and so many threads to close at the end that it becomes overwhelming, the block happens, and the book is abandoned.

    Like many others I could never finish a book until I started outlining. After a dozen or so books outlined and finished successfully I tried pantsing one because it's popular on the forums (oh so popular) and thought I'd give it a go again ... horrible, just a horrible amount of pondering at every step of the way. It took so long to write. I went back to outlining. Outlining gives you the big chunks and the creativity is allowed to happen again inside the scenes.

    As a recommendation: Finish writing, editing, and packaging your series in one go but release them a month apart to build the Amazon algorithm momentum. I did a trilogy all in one go on the same day and it was a waste of two books as the bump was the same as a single title alone, and this was back in the earlier wild-west algorithm days. Don't forget you can also create a volume with all titles bound together to stretch the bump another month, perhaps timed for the holidays.

    I use mind-mapping or "brains storming" software to create my outlines.
    Currently with Freeplane (Linux) but there are many out there for different platforms, just find and try a few.
    Easy to build ideas free-form, move them around, trim/append sections, and slide them into chapters. Sometimes fragments or whole conversations get done that way. I output the finished outline file to a text file that I import into the word processor and I start writing, consuming the outline sections as I go.

    .
    « Last Edit: July 19, 2020, 08:16:43 am by jvin248 »
           

    Online alhawke

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    Re: Holy cow. In-depth outlining a series works.
    « Reply #7 on: July 19, 2020, 08:50:08 am »
    The usual break points for many writers happen at 25% and 75% of a story if pantsing it. That's because there are so many options at the start and so many threads to close at the end that it becomes overwhelming, the block happens, and the book is abandoned.
    Interesting. I never thought of why this occurs. I do see problems with endings as I'm a "pantser", but I always get through it (sometimes going back and adding stuff in to tie everything together).

    The advantage to being a pantser is I have a lot of twists and turns in my books and things can be very unexpected. Surprises are a lot of fun. To the OP, I envy your ability to put together a good outline. Honestly, I just can't get myself to do it, though I see the definite benefits. It's like sitting down to write a blurb--I hate doing it.

    I think both methods are viable. Outlining is probably faster and more efficient, but a bit harder to throw in the unexpected and not as fun (for me). In the end, it can all come together with either method with editing, IMO.
    « Last Edit: July 19, 2020, 08:51:40 am by alhawke »


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    Offline Decon

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    Re: Holy cow. In-depth outlining a series works.
    « Reply #8 on: July 19, 2020, 12:26:16 pm »
    Interesting. I never thought of why this occurs. I do see problems with endings as I'm a "pantser", but I always get through it (sometimes going back and adding stuff in to tie everything together).

    The advantage to being a pantser is I have a lot of twists and turns in my books and things can be very unexpected. Surprises are a lot of fun. To the OP, I envy your ability to put together a good outline. Honestly, I just can't get myself to do it, though I see the definite benefits. It's like sitting down to write a blurb--I hate doing it.

    I think both methods are viable. Outlining is probably faster and more efficient, but a bit harder to throw in the unexpected and not as fun (for me). In the end, it can all come together with either method with editing, IMO.

    Yes both methods are viable. Heck, I've even written the last chapter with the twist ending first and everything drove towards that, but I do think AL Hawke is right about the 25 and 75% when pantsting and arriving at writer's block unless you firmly have the pacing, plot, and act structure in your head for the story. That's where I was with the 4 WIP books at differing points in the plots when I gave up writing 2 years ago or so. Previously, I've ploughed though writer's block and finished them, but with long periods trying to fathom out where I wanted to go next.

    I've been writing many years, but only ever written a book per year when pantsting, that's why I decided to post how I was finding outlining, because the productivity was frightenly rapid once I had it planned out in-depth and trust me, there are plenty of surprises and twists.

    Just to note I wrote 3 more chapters today of around 5,000 words until the Man UTD v Chelsea soccer game intervened, but I'm now back at it much to my wife's displeasure lol.
    « Last Edit: July 19, 2020, 12:37:43 pm by Decon »


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    Offline Starcatcher

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    Re: Holy cow. In-depth outlining a series works.
    « Reply #9 on: July 19, 2020, 03:01:54 pm »
    I probably should try to outline my stories more. I have the basic plot in my head but whenever I try to plan the smaller things out something else happens. It leads to awkward moments, a lot of awkward moments, like I am going to need an editor to help fix them kind of awkward moments.

    Offline Decon

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    Re: Holy cow. In-depth outlining a series works.
    « Reply #10 on: August 01, 2020, 08:17:41 am »
    1st August, 2020

    Just to update. 1st book completed at 88,000 words. 2k short of target but within planned range. That's just over 3 weeks from start to finish after the  outline. Onto the second book after a weekend break. The last 10% changed from the outline but I drew it back to the planned last two chapters.

    Really pleased how outlining helped with both the pace of the story chapters and the speed of writing them.
    « Last Edit: August 01, 2020, 08:53:30 am by Decon »


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    Offline Doglover

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    Re: Holy cow. In-depth outlining a series works.
    « Reply #11 on: August 02, 2020, 02:33:49 am »
    .

    The usual break points for many writers happen at 25% and 75% of a story if pantsing it. That's because there are so many options at the start and so many threads to close at the end that it becomes overwhelming, the block happens, and the book is abandoned.


    I can't agree with that. I've written more than thirty books without any idea of where the story is going and I keep going until the end. And when I get to about 75 % I do more than my usual 2000 words a day, because I am rolling downhill to the end.

    Everyone is different. I can't outline because I have no idea where the story is going or what it's about until I get there. But many people can't manage without an outline. Whatever works for you.


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    Online Gareth K Pengelly

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    Re: Holy cow. In-depth outlining a series works.
    « Reply #12 on: August 02, 2020, 02:50:34 am »
    I can't agree with that. I've written more than thirty books without any idea of where the story is going and I keep going until the end. And when I get to about 75 % I do more than my usual 2000 words a day, because I am rolling downhill to the end.

    Everyone is different. I can't outline because I have no idea where the story is going or what it's about until I get there. But many people can't manage without an outline. Whatever works for you.

    I'm very similar to you. I planned out my latest book, guesstimating that it would be about 100k words when done. It's 135k words right now at 98% done and I went a completely different direction with it than intended, and somehow managed to set up yet another sequel for it too haha.

    Offline Decon

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    Re: Holy cow. In-depth outlining a series works.
    « Reply #13 on: August 02, 2020, 05:30:18 am »
    My experience is the either pantsing, even if I don't know where it is going, or outlining where I do, I become all consumed with the story and eat, breath and sleep it, if you get my meaning. Anyway, that helps me to imagine it 3 or 4 chapters or more ahead.

    Just wondering if it's the same for others, or if imagination only kicks in when you hit the keyboard.

    Bear in mind, I don't have a job or kids as a distraction.
    « Last Edit: August 02, 2020, 05:34:43 am by Decon »


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    Offline anotherpage

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    Re: Holy cow. In-depth outlining a series works.
    « Reply #14 on: August 02, 2020, 06:02:57 am »
    I've done both methods over the years and also do a bit of a hybrid at times.

    Some books i have to outline and some books I just can't as I have no idea where its going until i begin.

    Both ways I can still get a book done in 12 days if I sit my ass in the chair.

    Find what works for you.

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