Thursday, November 11, 2010

How the heck do you do this???

I'm working on a fun, new project with some fun, new characters. Thanks to all of you on Twitter who have answered my calls for help on everything from Starbucks coffee drinks to dog names.

But, I'm really only about 15K words into this thing and I've already rewritten it twice, because I get snippets of where the characters are taking me and things in the begining need to change.

So, my question for all of you:

Do you outline?

If so, how the heck do you do it?
Major plot points only? Characters? Or details? I don't even know where to start O_O


  1. I don't know how much I help, but I usually write small details about the characters and relations between them (characters are the most important point to me) and after the plot in chronological order, but it doesn't always help because I change most of it. Sorry I can't help more.

  2. I usually stick with major plot points only. Of course, that tends to mean more editing! :-)

  3. I don't know how people do it either! It takes some major persistence that I don't have :)

  4. I'm 100% pantser. An idea forms in my mind from start to finish a lot of times, and I might scribble it down. But no outlines, no chapter outlines, no character charts. Nada.

    On my last book, I wrote a synopsis first...I ended up having to rewrite the synops about 3x's because the story took different turns....albeit much better turns than I originally planned. Plus, a character I really had originally envisioned much with TOTALLY sprouted into one of my fav characters of the book.

    So, sometimes I think you just gotta throw form to the wind and just write!

  5. Um, yeah. I outline. I outline for like a month or so before I start writing. Honestly, I tried to pants and totally failed. Assuming you're a pantser I'd start with a basic outline

    1. Figure out your mc story goal and inner and outer conflict.
    2. What or who is stopping them and why?
    3. inciting incident
    4. Disaster one - end of Act I
    5. Disaster two - middle of Act II (big twist or reveal)
    6. Disaster three - end of Act II (dark point)
    7. New plans and climax - Act III

    I go farther than this and list out scenes and rising stakes but if that's not how you work, then it might mess with your creativity.

    Good luck!

  6. I don't usually outline but if I do, it's just the major plot points. I'm a pantser by nature so any more than this stifles me too much.

  7. I am starting and actually finishing my first novel thanks to NaNoWriMo ( I have like 6 halfway done scripts/novels ). I found this link ( from Kelley Armstrong on her idea of outlining. I found it very informative and it definitely works for me. Check it out and see if any ideas pop out that might work for you. :)

  8. I know the very basic details of the story and who my characters are, then write chapter 1, then make a short bullet list of what happens in ch 2, then write ch 2, and write list for ch 3, and so on

  9. I'm usually a pantser but for nano I tried my hand at plotting an outline. I decided what the main character wanted, what prevents him/her from getting it, what'll he/she try to do to get it, and how he/she'd try to get what's wanted. Then I did the same for the opposing force and what he/she'd do to prevent the MC from succeeding, why, etc. That's the light version but that gives you an idea of how I did it.

    A good free course on plotting is at It's a great course and did I mention free? There's lots of other good stuff there too.

    Hope that helps.
    (cher_dawn on twitter)

  10. I don't outline...order kind of scares me. If I have a scene in my head I just write it...even if it's out of order. Does this help at all? I basically just pump out the first draft,listening to some Pandora,and then I go backand do an outline and re-writes later. Of course you know this as a great YA novelist on how to do it. Don't give into the outlining! Long live the pantsers!

  11. Commiserations!
    I'm all for a rough outline... then ignoring it.

  12. I spend a month working and reworking the outline. It gives me time to get to know my characters and think about high points in the story before I take the plunge of drafting. So I have direction without sacrificing creativity. As I write, the outline always evolves.

  13. I'm also writing my first novel thanks to Nanowrimo as I'm an "unfinisher" normally. I HAVE to have an outline or it doesn't work for me. And I try to flesh out the characters beforehand too. I think if you've got a rough outline, you can always change it up a bit within the confines of the main plot. There's tons of advice out there! And I'd read anything you wrote anyway Lisa ;)

  14. I do a combination of prep work -- GMC and a complications worksheet, which is really breaking down the novel into a four-act (three act with 2-part Act 2) structure and the turning points of the character's journey. This is easier for me than outlining.

    I've shared the worksheets I use on our blog a while back, so here are the links in case they help. (I'm also including links to the start of the character worksheet.)

    Plot Complications Worksheet
    Goal, Motivation, Conflict, Tension
    Character Worksheet Series

    Hope you find some of this useful. For what it's worth, I have to write the first three chapters without doing any planning or plotting. Until then, it would be useless because the characters emerge as I write. For me, those early chapters get rewritten A LOT.


  15. I used to be a pantser, but I never finished anything. Back in 2007, I outlined the first quarter of my novel for NaNoWriMo. That quarter was all I ever finished of that book.

    Since then, I have discovered I work better with an outline to start from. I don't always follow said outline, but it helps.

    I still haven't actually finished a novel, but I have outlines for several now. My problem has always been not having enough stuff figured out for the middle. I get the first half figured out, and the ending figured out. I have no idea how to get from the first half to the ending.

    Or, rather, I didn't. Now I know where this year's NaNo project is going. I know how to get from my beginning to the end. I don't know every single step of the way, but I know most of it.

    The free plotting mini-course from Holly Lisle has been immensely helpful in figuring all this stuff out. I highly recommend it. Here's the link:

    Good luck!

  16. Thanks for all the suggestions! I don't know if I'm disciplined enough to actually follow through on any of this, but it sounds great!

  17. Don't outline. But I think from the next MS, I'm going to plot the major points.

    I also have a major upset, but I'm writing through it.