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When I was in college, my teacher said to always outline your novel before writing it.  Then you would know how to begin it, what the middle is like, and the ending.

That sounds good and I have done it.  The problem is that it is not the way I write.  I have a general idea of what I want to write and then start writing. The ideas just flow and I put them down on the computer screen.

But I am sure a lot of people do wonderful outlines the way that my teacher taught me.

Do you outline your novel before you write it?
 

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I just start off writing scenes then sew them together, adding notes at the end for further scenes and plots. Then when I'm about a quarter in and I have an idea of the complete story arc, I outline the rest. It's subject to change, but helps me with pacing, particularly as I have different stories weaving in and out of one another. :)
 

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Yes. Heavily and meticulously. It would drive most authors nuts, but it works for me.

I know one thing: There's no way that I could have developed the serpentine plot of Hunter by a "seat of the pants" method. No way at all. I'm exceedingly proud of its plot, and my advance readers love it, too; but if I had tried to "wing it," the multiple layers of interweaving subplots would have been impossible for me to conceive. It required a lot of prior thinking and planning.
 

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I used to write whatever came into my head but found my stories were plotless, meandering and tended to get me stuck. Outlining at least the plot has helped me finally finish my stories and kept me on track.

You're starting a lot of threads without further participation, Franklin - is this your KB marketing strategy? How's it working for you so far in sales?
 

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No. The fun in writing for me is the journey. I love surprises and taking a basic idea and exploring it through Characters I create is a wild ride.
 

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Another writer who doesn't outline.  When I start a novel I have the title, the opening scene, and the ending.  And I know what's supposed to happen in the middle.

For me, the thrill of writing the novel is finding out how I get from the opening scene to the ending.  The writing stimulates the plot, and I usually start writing notes at around page 100, which ends up turning into an outline as I go.

That said, some writers need, appreciate, thrive on the discipline that is an outline.  Some even write extensive outlines that are 1/3 the length of their finished project.

I'm just not one of them.
 

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I've written two novels without an outline, but the third has bogged down with plot problems, and I'm considering creating an outline around the existing chapters in an attempt to work my way through it.
 

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I start out like ilyria, writing a few scenes at a time. I usually start with a prologue, which focuses on an aspect of the protagonist (so I can get to know them better). I use the word prologue loosely, since often this material ends up scrapped or cut down and used in the middle. For my work in progress novel, I arrived at a point where I could no longer keep the plot lines straight...and started an arts and crafts project. I'm typically a meticulously organized person by nature, but I can't force an outline from the very start.

I recently blogged about my recent outlining process and posted a picture of my current work's Plot Chart.

I'm still at the very top of this chart...ughhhh: http://stevenkonkoly.com/2011/06/03/the-structure-of-a-plot/
 

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With the seven novels I've completed none have been outlined.

I am trying outlines with my new WIP using Scrivener. Why the change? Time. I think by using outlines I'll cut down the amount of time it takes from first word to published book. As a pantser I could only produce 1-2 books a year. With outlines I'm hoping for 3-4+. Then again it all depends on if the muse is cooperating. Plans are dashed when the muse goes fishing.
 

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I've just started using Scrivener. I have a short story that I've outlined, while the novel I'm rewriting in it was not outlined. I've never outlined anything before, but thought seeing I am learning Scrivener, why not try it!  :D
 

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I outline. I do character worksheets that I print and keep in a binder to refer to as I write.

I also use Scrivener. I love the way it holds the book, the outline, the character worksheets, the research sites, etc., in one place.

But do I stick methodically to the outline? No. If some great revelation happens, I change the outline to reflect it, review the plot as a whole, then hammer out more words, following the outline as I go. Why I love outlines? It keeps the story from wandering, and the middle doesn't flounder as much.
 

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Yeah, I outline...in a manner of speaking.

My outlines resemble flow charts, with significant events/plot points in the boxes. Arrows connect the boxes to indicate sequence. Along the arrows is usually written info about what I expect will connect the significant events. Erase and redraw the arrows as necessary--it's a very fluid way of laying out a story.

Once you get a chart you're happy with, more detailed ideas about each event can go onto index cards, to be used or ignored as necessary during the writing of the text.

WPG

 

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I've tried it several times, and several different ways. Outlines just really don't work for me at all. I've gotten to the masochistic point of almost *liking* it when I write myself into a corner, just because it inevitably forces me to come up with a plot twist to get out of said corner that I wouldn't have discovered otherwise. But I still complain every time it happens, of course.  ;)

I normally write a synopsis first (which for some reason makes most writers hiss and slink away like vampires from sunlight). A one page, generally vague description of the story at it's most basic with a description of the two main characters. No ending yet, except either "they live happily ever after", "they part ways" or "only one person lives at the end", or some variant of that. I can't write if I know exactly how things are going to end - takes all the fun out of it for me.

When the synopsis is done, I start writing, scene by scene, always linearly. I rarely even look back at the synopsis...I just let the characters tell me their story as we go. 
 

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Yes. And the outline is usually very detailed, more like a summary than bullet points. I used to be able to just jump in, but I'm way too obsessive about details to do that now. :p The best part is that I tend to write the outline in the narrative voice I'll be using in the piece, so it kind of gets me in the mood right off the bat.
 

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"My outlines resemble flow charts, with significant events/plot points in the boxes. Arrows connect the boxes to indicate sequence. Along the arrows is usually written info about what I expect will connect the significant events. Erase and redraw the arrows as necessary--it's a very fluid way of laying out a story."

I use MS Project to do this. It's a superb tool.
 

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I don't outline, really. I tried it once, outlined a whole book worth of story, but once it was in outline form my brain shut down, refused to work with it. I lost all the fun, writing down everything that happened.

So I don't do that any more. What I've started doing instead is writing down the 6 questions (who, what, when, where, why, how) with plenty of space between them on a sheet of paper. Then I answer them. That way, I know who I'm working with, what they want, where they're going, and enough about how to get them there that I don't get too seriously derailed.

If I ever try writing anything like a mystery, that might have to change. For now, though, this works pretty well for moderately smutty romance. And I don't get bored (drat that ADD, anyway).
 

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I never, or rarely, outline my novels.  For the non-fiction I write, I do have outlines.  I write my books in linear fashion.  That way I sort of "enjoy" them as a reader does.  Sometimes I am even surprised by how a chapter ends because the story suddenly took me to a place I had not plannedw, which I love.  I cannot write scenes or write the ending first of that kind of thing.  I have to write it from beginning to end.
 

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Ladyeclectic said:
I used to write whatever came into my head but found my stories were plotless, meandering and tended to get me stuck. Outlining at least the plot has helped me finally finish my stories and kept me on track.
This, exactly. The 'seat of your pants' method just got me two unfinished novels. I meticulously outlined this one and it was worth it. I have so little time to write that when I do sit down, I need to be able to write instead of debating over plot. This way I know what is happening in the story right then and where it is going. It's made things much less frustrating :)
 
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