Saturday, November 07, 2009

Do you outline?

Do you make an outline when you're writing a novel? And when you do, how long and detailed is it?

I "write long," as editors say, and always find myself cutting out over half of early drafts --because I include a lot of details that I don't need AND because the story not only becomes more focussed but sometimes completely changes as I write it. So it seems that making an outline, especially, a really action-oriented one, one sentence per chapter, could really save a lot of time and keep the story on track.

Or does that make things too forced? I'm really curious about how other people do it!

Right now I'm doing it both ways--writing a novel of my own without an outline, and a work-for-hire ghostwritten novel with one. I'm also forcing myself to write the work-for-hire book IN ORDER -- and am already straying from the outline. I have to admit that this is part of the fun of writing -- being surprised by what the characters do and say. But I know from experience that it results in 8 or 10 drafts where (in my imagination, anyway) other people would write 1 or 2 or 3.

My best friend writes for TV and there, they beat out every script before they write it. And it is THEY: a group of writers sit in a room, discussing every scene until they have an outline that lists every scene -- who's in it, where it takes place, what happens. Then and only then is the story given to a writer, or writers, to actually write.

After I finish the work-for-hire project I'm going to beat out my novel -- and count myself lucky that I'm doing it alone, without a roomful of people complaining about or criticizing every idea. Or would that be a good thing? Maybe I should imagine them, too -- I know enough writers well enough to be able to guess pretty accurately what they would say.


Lisa Yee said...

Yep. I always outline. Not that I always follow it.

alissa imre geis said...

I definitely didn't write a scene by scene outline. I made more general outlines with lots of notes and then wrote through the novel in order. Planning a few steps ahead, while simply putting the characters together and seeing what happens.

It is very much how I draw, making many sketches until something looks "right."

Libby Koponen said...

Thank you both. And Alissa! Past tense! Does that mean you're DONE?

alissa imre geis said...

The first draft is complete.
I am reading the whole thing (376 pages) through this week so I can get an idea of what I have.
I have some major rewriting to do but there is definately a novel there now.h

Libby Koponen said...

WOW! Congratulations, that is totally great, Alissa--and very inspiring, too.

Uma Krishnaswami said...

I only outline when I'm halfway through a project and running my story into a ditch. The outline helps me get back on track--until the next ditch.