Thursday, 5 March 2015

Outlining and You by Patti Larsen #ChaBooCha

one of J. K. Rowling's very complicated plot
outline pages
Outlining and You

I know what you’re thinking about the title of this post. Outlining, the evil scourge of the writer, nasty holdover from high school English class that sucks all the fun and creativity out of opening up your muse and letting her flow from your fingertips unfettered, free.

Please, allow me to elaborate before you brush off the one tool that could take you from the choppy sea of book writing to the hallowed shores of book written.

When I outline, it’s one of the most creative things I’ve ever been privileged to undertake. From core idea through one-sheet delight into conflict building and to a full, chapter-by-chapter breakdown, the outlining process is, in every step, joyful and full of sparkle I can’t get enough of.

Consider the following as a peek inside what could easily be the most fun you’ve had as a writer. Now, don’t get me wrong. Outlining isn’t for everyone. I do know a small few writers who can manage to follow the thread of their story from beginning to end with all subplots firmly in place in their first pass. I’m in awe of such talent and have only accomplished it in short story form, not full novel. Nor would I want to attempt it, to be honest, when the format I use makes my writing life so easy it’s a delight.

First benefit: attachment. When I’m outlining, I’m slowly building from the seed of the idea into layers of information and plotting, rather than sitting down and writing out a giant scene (or scenes), making it 10 or 20K into the work before realizing I’ve painted myself into a corner and am now forced to delete the bulk of the job and start again. Horrifying. By building the story, plot point by conflict by character trait, I allow myself the clear and concise vision of what is coming before committing whole heartedly to the thing. It’s awesome and liberating and leaves me with goosebumpy shivers I can’t wait to feel every time I sit down to outline.

Second benefit: editing. My content editor loves me. LOVES. I love me, too. Imagine being able to follow a plan, to write a book from a template of your own creation (no unoriginality or formulas here!) in a way you can see exactly where plot holes might lurk in wait to swallow your story whole. Or having a—dare I say—easy time with your edits because, lo and behold, the story is actually complete. Finally, the delighted response from your editor when he or she discovers you’ve done a large majority of their work for them. Priceless.

Third benefit: time. No more waiting for the muse to strike. No need. The entire story is written, you just need to sit down and fill in the blanks (Procrastination is, however, up to you to deal with). Using my method, I’m able to outline and write two books a month when I’m feeling ambitious (my record is three). And yes, according to my readers, they are good, thank you.

As writers, there are times (more often than not) when we’re taught what we do is hard. Painful, angst-filled, a struggle, and that we suck at it so much, why do we bother? I choose to change that way of thinking, starting with what I can do to make my life as a writer easier. Not only loving what I write, but embracing everything to do with the process, including outlining and editing. This job has enough pitfalls. Why not grasp every advantage?

That doesn’t mean you have to do what I do. Exploring method is half the fun. Sometimes something as simple as a beat sheet (taken from screenwriting) that breaks the story down into the three acts of a complete story is enough. Or, if you’re like me, a detailed paragraph per chapter might be your cup of tea. No matter your skill set or level of accomplishment, an outline can be a valuable tool for your writer’s box of tricks.

Now, if only there were more hours in the day…


About Patti Larson

Patti Larsen is an award-winning author with a passion for the paranormal, now with many books in happy publication and her best-selling Hayle Coven Novels re-releasing in book stores everywhere. She lives in beautiful Prince Edward Island, Canada, with a patient husband, six demanding cats and a Gypsy Vanner gelding, Fynn.

You can find Patti in these places:
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Giveaway



Patti has generously offered signed copy of Girl Incredible as a prize for one commenter. All you need to do to be entered is comment on this post. The winner will be chosen by a random number generator on March 31st. (Only one entry is allowed per person, and you must be a signed-up member of the challenge in order to qualify.)


34 comments:

  1. I love this post! 'from the choppy sea of book writing to the hallowed shores of book written.' Excellent!

    I vary in the amount I outline -- though I've been writing for many years, I don't feel like I've hit on the perfect formula yet. I thought there was a lot of wisdom in 'building the story, plot point by conflict by character trait', which I'm hoping I might be able to work into a structure I find more useful.

    Thanks for this lovely post, Patti and thanks to Becky for organising it!

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    1. The best part about learning is taking the pieces that work for you and using them to your advantage! :D Happy outlining, Vicorva!

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  2. Hahaha. I said exactly what you thought I said when I saw this. I am a panster. BUT. I have become a teeny bit interested in outlining lately. Maybe there's hope? Thank you, Patti and Becky. xo

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    1. LOL :D The thing is, you don't have to go as in depth as I do--even just knowing how the story ends can offer massive benefits. Happy writing, Robyn!

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  3. I'm like you, Patti Larsen. I love to outline my stories. I agree that there are many benefits to it, too. :)

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    1. SO FUN. #bestjobever :D Thanks for commenting, Lily!

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  4. I enjoy outlining, too. I think it can shine a spotlight into those deep, dark plotholes. But I think I'm a bit of a hybrid writer these days. I *have* an outline, but I don't shy away from following a pantser path if something comes along that looks interesting!

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    1. Hybrid is awesome--even though I fully outline, my characters still drop bombs on me from time to time--it's part of the fun! But, rarely do I find the story veers off from where it was going--such reveals only add more richness to the tale. Love it! :D

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  5. I struggle with outlining, always have. Whatever I outline bears minimal resemblance to the finished work! For me, having a rough outline helps, though plot holes still come in the drafts, but they are easily filled :)

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    1. Whatever works for you, Melissa--you might consider thinking of outlining as writing rather than outlining. The writers I talk to who struggle with it consider it separate from the actual work without knowing they are doing it--which turns into an issue later on. Hope that helps! Regardless, play with different kinds of outlines until you find what works :D

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  6. I tend to be a pantser--which has definitely lead me down some interesting paths--long and winding and exciting as who knows where we might go--kinda like a road trip without a map. For the sake of expediency, however, an outline is what I am attempting to accomplish with this challenge. Thanks for your post.

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    1. LOL pantsing can be a lot of fun, don't get me wrong! But, I like to do my seat of the pants during outlining--does that make sense? I still have the freedom to wander around and look at the sights, try on new things at that stage rather than when I'm writing. But, remember! It's always what works for you :)

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  7. Great post, thank you! I am a plotter and a panster which seems to work for most of the time - but outlining has always helped the beginning process even if i do not know my ending yet. :-)

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    1. Sounds like you've found your combination, Ramona! :D Happy writing!

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  8. I have recently begun using OneNote to outline my stories, it's a handy tool because it can be used across many devices and is automatically saved. That way when you get an idea you can jot it down. Thanks for the post!

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    1. Fun! I'm an old school, write by hand kind of outliner. I love how the brain works--that accessing different parts of it through different methods can increase access to creativity--does that make sense? Regardless, it sounds like you have a system that's working for you--good job! :D

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  9. love it. im a fan of the outline, and do it in all my stories. but i keep it to an idea, not too much elaboration so i can still create, and wonder a little ;)

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    1. Works for you, awesome! I find even knowing the ending--having that much in place--can make all the difference. Happy writing, Kelly!

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  10. My story outlines are like the faint pencil lines of a new drawing.

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    1. :D Exactly! Even something that simple can give you the impetuous to finish a project--part of the reason an outline is so important.

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  11. I can totally see the benefits of outlining.

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    1. Happy to hear it, Mary! Hope your writing project is going well so far this month--good luck!

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  12. Outlining sounds very necessary it would be horrible to paint yourself into a corner you couldn't get out of.

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    1. It's frustrating, definitely. Why not make life easier? :D I'm all about easy... good luck this month, Sharon!

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  13. Thank you for the post, I love outlining!

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    1. You're so welcome, Anita :D I love it, too... so lucky to be a writer!

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  14. So sorry to be this long responding to everyone--I've been out of the country with little access to internet--thank you SO MUCH for your comments and I hope you're all having an amazing time writing this month! Thank you to Becky for hosting this event (and my post)--what fun, this job of ours! :D

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  15. When I first started writing, I ended up with a drawer full of stories with great beginnings and weak endings. So now I prefer to at least know where I'm headed before I put too much time into a manuscript. Much good to be said for outlining!

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  16. Meredith Pinkstone10 March 2015 at 18:10

    Such a positive outlook -- thanks!!

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  17. Oh Patti...I just LOVE your enthusiasm!!! I do like to outline myself and find it quite rewarding! Thank you for such a wonderful post and for sharing your precious time with us!

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  18. Thank you for sharing this..... i don't usually outline much and when I do it wouldn't make sense to others. But I have been outlining a little more especially as i have a few series that I working on - and i feel outlining is definately needed then.

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  19. Thank you for posting this. I have always struggled with outlining as it reminds me too much of my high school days…way back when.

    I’m a dyed-in- the- wool panster as I love that my stories can hang a left and take me somewhere completely unexpected. I don’t outline per se, but usually have a Word page laid out with a schedule of names, places, dates etc

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  20. Regrettably I've never gotten along well with outlines. But I keep trying...

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  21. This might sound odd, but I love to outline. It's a beastly challenge that I love conquering each time I finish one. Great post! I love anything paranormal!

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