This is topic Difficulties with outlining; recommendations appreciated! in forum Open Discussions About Writing at Hatrack River Writers Workshop.

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Posted by Disgruntled Peony (Member # 10416) on :
My biggest problem with writing in the last five years or so has been pushing past the initial idea/outlining stage to hammering out the actual prose. (I have been having focus problems elsewhere, too, and it is entirely possible that I am undiagnosed ADHD. Not sure if that's relevant, but it might give some context.) This makes things especially difficult when it comes to working on longer works of fiction. I could, theoretically, stick to short stories, but what I really want to do is write novels.

When I was younger I used to write out simple, bulletin-point outlines. I didn't always get anywhere with those outlines, but it gave me a scene-by-scene progression so I at least sort of knew where I was going with things. A few years ago a friend introduced me to the Snowflake Method.

On paper, it sounds like an awesome idea. You start small and work your way into writing the book over time. The problem is, I never get past step 3 before I give up for one reason or another. I've tried this with three different story concepts, and I'm beginning to think this method just isn't for me.

I'm going to try going back to my old methods and seeing if that solves the issue, but I was wondering if anyone else had helpful tips and tricks for story outlines and how to move past that stage into the full-fledged writing portion of things. I'd appreciate any and all advice on this issue.
Posted by MattLeo (Member # 9331) on :
If the snowflake method works for you, great, but I doubt Dostoevsky used anything like it. I'll bet Jane Austen didn't outline her novels, either. I'm not against outlining, but it's just one way of doing it. On the plus side, outlining is labor efficient. It keeps you from writing a lot of stuff you can't use and it helps you if you're trying to come in at around a specific word count (e.g. 90K to 100K words for a typical traditionally published first genre novel). But it can also be a creative straightjacket.

I have friends who are obsessive outliners, and they're very productive in terms of word count and finishing what they start, which are both very good things. But unless the characters break out of their expected trajectory now and then the results tend to be a little mechanical. I want a story that feels organic, that has just a little of life's ability to surprise and confound. Particularly in fantasy and science fiction I demand to be amazed. A wonderfully put-together story isn't enough; I want elements that have that "where the heck did that come from?" quality. So if you do outline, be prepared to have to throw your outline out.

It's like having a plan in life. Not having a plan is the second worst thing you can do; the worst is stubbornly sticking to your plan when it's not working.

Here's what I like to do: I write some key scenes first. I think of it as drilling a test well; if I send the story over here will it produce something interesting? I generally work my way back from the climax. After I have four or five plausibly linkable turning points drafted then I outline around those points. This gives me the creative freedom of pantsing but the structure of outlining.

But this approach has its drawbacks. You don't have the satisfaction of writing the last page and sitting back to admire your completed manuscript; that page was written almost at the start of the process. What you have at the end of the process is nothing but the painfully dull work of stitching everything together.

Don't feel you have to do it a certain way because that way really works for someone else. If it doesn't work for you try something different. That probably won't work for you either, but it's more sensible than sticking with an approach that is failing.
Posted by Meredith (Member # 8368) on :
What MattLeo said.
I'm a discovery writer myself. I'll generally get an idea of where I want the story to go (though the characters don't always cooperate with that) and then launch. I'm discovering the story at the same time that I'm writing the first draft.
Of course, that means more revisions in the end.
On the other hand, I've learned two things about outlines--for me.
There is no "right way". Find what works for you.
Posted by extrinsic (Member # 8019) on :
Outline and other writing plan methods, the way they're taught, have substantial shortfalls in the reason and reasoning department. A writer is best advised to improve upon what's taught and what can be learned for effective outline development.

What, why, and how an outline shapes a research and report composition does not come up in writing pedagogy or androgogy -- child learning and adult learning, respectively: high school or college. Nor in other meta-genre models, performance (fiction, creative nonfiction, poetry, scripts), analysis, and argumentation.

A first principle for all writing is that argumentation is the core kernel of all. An outline, therefore, best practice establishes the substantive claim -- or thesis or assertion -- first and foremost. This claim, too, is the so-labeled "hook" of prose. The claim, so to speak, of performance composition is a life-defining, life-complicating moral human condition crisis or struggle. Or simpler terms, a dramatic complication: wants and problems wanting satisfaction. A congruent want and problem at opposition and parallel is that first principle best practice for prose outlines.

A want for money is a problem, too, for example. The moral human condition is greed, which though a vice may also be a virtue. For example, wealth concentration, if socially responsibly used for a common good, is a vice-virtue. Without public wealth concentration, a country would not have a strong defense, for instance. Private wealth concentration, individual, likewise, could provide food staples on a vast economy of scale that reduces, one, costs, labor efforts, and makes foods affordable and available to the masses.

Those above, though, are too broad of examples. Narrowed focus is needed, for prose and any metagenre composition. The history of Middle East wars could consume several libraries' space. A narrative about a battle, too, could be too large a topic. An hour of one persona's reflections of a battle might be narrow enough.

What's the complication, though? As it were, what's the story about? A start from a moral condition is a practical approach. Wrath-patience, sloth-diligence, greed-charity, gluttony-temperance, pride-humility, envy-kindness, lust-chastity are the conventional seven vice-virtue clashes.

A battlefield crisis, and a crisis a story must be about, could be a cowardice-as-sloth struggle and diligence its counterargument. Self-preservation contends therein with self-sacrifice. Those motifs, though, should best practice not be directly named, rather a redirection is warranted. Say the antagonist on point believes another soldier needs to take over point position though none want to, and leadership likewise, that implies the point soldier is afraid. An internal struggle could be a contention to stay, abandon the point, or find a way to defuse the danger.

In that way, the tangible external action -- efforts to satisfy a complication -- are congruent to and the package of the intangible internal action and fertile, ripe, full realization of the action.

In these ways are best practice prose outlines developed: develop and plan the argumentation claim, the moral crisis, and the moral message and outcome and stakes.

Dramatic conflict is a diametric opposition of stake and outcome forces; that is, for example, life and death and cowardice and bravery for a soldier on point. That soldier's social responsibilities for the troop's common good are forward observer, draw fire and disclose enemy positions from doing so, and order of battle leadership, though temporary, for example. And flight or fight survival instincts are overwhelming.

I am an outline writer, though as well an intuitive writer, a symphonic synergy. The hard slog of putting a rough draft on the page, with the basic story shape established beforehand, is for me part of the discovery process. Once a draft is completed, next comes rediscovery and revisions, based upon reaching a skeletal shape that then needs congruity and unity of action flesh, both tangible and intangible action, external and internal action, overt and covert meaning, and moral vice and virtue in contention at least, if not confliction, confrontation, or outright conflagration!

Later revision phases bring new content and organization that enlivens revision processes and satisfaction of a well-crafted narrative, not just willy-nilly and haphazard external action: meaningful, congruent action.
Posted by Kathleen Dalton Woodbury (Member # 59) on :
One thing to remember is that you don't have to write the story in the order in which it will be read. Whether you outline or not, you can write the parts that excite you first (sort of similar to what MattLeo does) and then write the next parts that excite you.

As for filling in things and bringing those exciting parts together, you may find that you don't need nearly as much "transitional" material as you may think. The exciting parts, in many cases, can provide enough impetus to the story that a leap to the next one won't need much transition.

As has been said, try a few different approaches. What works for one writer won't work for another, but you can't tell until you try.

And you may find that what worked for one story won't work for the next story, so you'll have to try something else then as well. If you've tried out several different approaches, you'll have that many more choices on what to try when one thing doesn't work.
Posted by rstegman (Member # 3233) on :
What has worked somewhat well for me, is to write a short version of the whole piece, (two three pages usually) more telling what is going on than the actual writing, then using that as the outline. If I run into problems, I revisit the short piece and change the path and get it to work there, then make the corrections on the longer piece.
this is basically a discovery method of writing, but also using it as an outline. You got your key scenes, enough detail to know what action is going to have to happen, and you know where to get where you are going. And, if your larger piece is not going the way it is supposed to go, it is easy to discover how to follow the changes to get to a usable conclusion.
One thing I noticed is that if I could not get to a good ending in the short piece, it would absolutely never happen in the long one.

The advantage of this is that the ideas comes out free-flowing, and you know what the story is supposed to be. One can explore how to get it where it needs to be in a lot less words.

I have worked out stories where I sort of outlined, a single sentence for each scene, then developed the different sentences into paragraphs, then complete scenes, then (here is where I failed in those attempts at that time) linked the scenes together into a cohesive work.

NO METHOD will work for everyone. that is why there are so many methods out there.

On these writing boards, I have seen people get totally engrossed in the world creation (research and development of characters and the world they are going to use) that they completely lose interest when they finally start the actual writing process.
In that case, I write, then do some world development, then write again, and see if more world development is needed.
The world development helps with consistency, but the writing of the story is the key part.
"A disgusting first draft is always better than no draft at all."
"Until you get something on paper, you are just daydreaming."
Posted by wetwilly (Member # 1818) on :
Personally, I'm a beginning to end in order writer. I just write the first draft all the way through with--and here's the important part--the understanding that it's essentially a long outline, not anything like a finished story.
Posted by Grumpy old guy (Member # 9922) on :
Whatever you want to call it: outlining, crafting, planning, moulding, draft zero, shaping, there is a whole industry built around giving advice on THE right way to build your story. In fact there are some ‘writers’ whose sole literary output is writing self-help books on story outlining. If so many people can have so many opinions about the best way to outline a story, how can you decide whose advice is best to follow?

I’ll let you into a little secret: there is no best way, no right way, and no wrong way--there is only the way that works for you. Be you a rabid pantser or an obsessive planner, if it works for you then that’s the right way for you to outline your story. The problem is when it doesn’t work: what to do?

The only answer is to keep trying different approaches and to be willing to accept whatever does work, and use it, while discarding whatever doesn’t work, even if it’s the way you’ve been doing it for years and it makes you happy. If it doesn’t work, kill it.

I started out on my writing career as a pantser. It soon became apparent that, as the stories became ‘deeper’ and more complex, I was left with so much narrative baggage at the end that I effectively had to go back and start all over again to tie all the loose ends back together. Apparently a problem Tolkein encountered when writing The Lord of the Rings.

Now, instead of just offering gratuitous advice I’ll share my most valuable plotting tool with you. I created a Plotting Handbook. It isn’t for publication simply because it probably won’t work for most people; even though I could make some money by suggesting it is the ‘Ultimate Self-help Guide to Plotting’. But I’m not that mercenary.

The first page asks me if I have answered these three questions:

1. Does the story idea have significance? -- Does it address an essential part of the human condition?

2. Have I decided on the story’s Premise? -- Can I articulate it in one sentence or a short phrase?

3. Do I know who/what my main agonist(s) are/want? -- Are they worthy of further development?

The next couple of pages have diagrams of various plot structures including Freytag’s Triangle for the Drama, the Double Drama, and Campbell’s Hero’s Journey. After these pages are others to remind me of all the plotting options at my disposal: complex plots, parallel plots, converging plots, recognition scenes, reversal scenes, the construction of tragedy, and a few of my own ideas developed over the years.

Then come the pages dealing with the actual development of a plot. I began with a nebulous idea and now understand what is at its heart (the answers to questions 1 and 2), and what’s at stake (the answer to question 3). I need to translate these ideas into a narrative line, or plot, that has a beginning, middle, and an end. This is done pretty much in the ‘pantser style’ except I’m not writing anything down in prose; I’m free associating in point form and mapping that out against my chosen dramatic plot structure(s).

Once I have a basic plot, in its barest form, I start on character development. There is an everlasting debate about whether character drives plot or plot dives character. I’m of the opinion that it’s a bit of both, but I favour the argument of Lajos Egri in this that the main diver of a story is the character with all their faults, flaws, and heroic qualities. This goes for all the characters: the main agonists and all the major supporting characters--they all have their own wants, needs, and desires.

Once I know who is in the story, exactly what they want, and exactly how they’ll go about getting it, or stopping them from getting it, I can then go into more detail with my plot. Once I have the complete plot laid out in point form, the highlights and turning points, I can then set about deciding on the scenes that will be created to carry the reader through the plot to its conclusion.

This is where the character development work pays dividends; once I know who’s in the scene I know what they want, where they want to be, and what they have to overcome to get what they want. This is where the plotting diagrams come in useful; the action, stakes, and tension need to rise steadily to a climax and the character’s abilities to overcome the hurdles placed in front of them need to increase at the same pace.

I think I’ll leave it there; you should have a general idea of what I do. Of course there is a whole lot more to it than is contained in the above ‘potted’ outline. Over the years I have gone from pantser to planner and I put in months of work, sometimes even years, before I set pen to paper and actually start writing prose. This system seems to work for me--now. I don’t know if it will work for anyone else; but there it is in any case.

Last, I want to say that I disagree with the observation of MattLeo that planning out a story is a creative straightjacket. I find it liberating because I'm not distracted by wondering how I'll get where I want to go and wondering what I've forgotten as I travel the path.

Posted by JSchuler (Member # 8970) on :
I'm going to approach this from a different direction and point you towards a tool.


This is a neat word processor that has better allowed me to convert outlines into stories. It's also made it plain easier to outline even in the middle of writing, and that's what makes it especially effective for me. The ability to set session targets has also been good at helping me to develop writing self discipline.

I recommend going to YouTube and checking out some videos on it.
Posted by Grumpy old guy (Member # 9922) on :
One of the writers I edit uses Scrivener and promotes it heavily on his website and blog. It still doesn't stop him from creating bad stories.

Software is no substitute for high-functioning wetware.

Posted by JSchuler (Member # 8970) on :
<i> One of the writers I edit uses Scrivener and promotes it heavily on his website and blog. It still doesn't stop him from creating bad stories.</i>

I don't recall saying it would, or reading that producing bad stories was Disgruntled Peony's problem. I'll reread the thread just to make certain, though.
Posted by extrinsic (Member # 8019) on :
High-function wetware is a conscious, critical, responsible, and disciplined expression engine, and one with powerful memory and recordation skills.

For example, a recordation best practice for planner, intuitive, and melded writer is a separate or inline note journal, where reminders, sketches, anecdotes, and vignettes, meditations and options and detours are saved for use or consideration. An outline or structure summary and explanation could also be saved in the file.

For organization purposes, save a new folder under a temporary name. Save the note file in the folder, outlines if separate, and sequentially organized drafts of the composition (HappyHarshNotes.txt: HappyHarsh01.rtf). Also save reference sources in the folder: online links (, copy-pasted excerpts (HappyHarshExc.rtf), source bibliography as indicated -- (Smith, Jill. The Made Make-Believe Maker's Handbook and Manual. Irrepressible Press: Onlsow, Babel: Jan 2017. Neo-Age Narratology. Web. PDF.)

Memory, now that's a tall challenge. Remember what happened in the first act? The second act's composition reveals a plot hole from a missed pre-positioned motif, a missed Chekhov's Gun introduction. Make a reminder note to or adjust the first act to include the missed motif introduction, and to develop its mythology. Defuse the plot hole. Probably happens again, and more than once throughout drafting, for the third act.

A "Bad Story" -- what is that? Poorly organized? Missed content? Weak grammar? Emotionally bland expression? Unoriginal and unappealing narrative? All the above? They say there is no bad writing; all writing is progress, eventually, outlines included.

Personally, I believe studying bad stories is as effectual as, if not more so, than studying "good" stories. The former is a beneficial stairstep to approach and access the latter.

Now outlines, I've examined more than a few, wrote my share too. A bad outline is one that misses its primary function. The function from an overall metagenre direction is to define the main and central argument and its unraveling toward argument satisfaction. Prose's argument is a human condition complication crisis and struggle satisfaction. This complication, though an imperative, and discretionary, as it were: is the more substantive necessity for prose, period.

Develop that complication-argument up front -- outline, sketch, draft, etc. -- and a narrative writes itself, and passionately, because prose is an ideal venue for conducting a passionate argument with the self for the purposes of making meaning out of existence challenges.
Posted by wetwilly (Member # 1818) on :
You know, I'm starting a new story. I've got a general premise, but no real plot or character beyond broad generalization. Now, depth of character is something I've been working on (for my characters, not myself). I'm trying to get better at letting characters react and behave naturally rather than forcing them to do things to reach a pre-conceived plot point. I'm trying to let them live, in other words. I think I'll try writing this one as a total seat-of-the-pantser to see what happens. Let's see if letting go and letting the story dictate its own direction (or more accurately, shifting more of the writing process into my subconscious mind) serves me at all.
Posted by extrinsic (Member # 8019) on :
Consider events are the more pivotal points for narrative development, more than, though congruent to, settings and characters. Character development and depth, for example, artfully develop from events and reactions to them. Note that a character's name is only an anchor for which readers identify until events shape the name's significance. Likewise settings.

For example:

Jane Holland comfortably slept on nail-studded beds.

That Jane sleeps comfortably on nail-studded beds distinguishes her basic nature and natural personality. The significance of who Jane is develops from predicate verb event "slept" and adverb "comfortably" -- notably, expressed commentary; adverbs' function -- and prepositional object phrase "on nail-studded beds" -- plural. This is how character development, and setting and depth derive from event significance and emphasis. Note also the sentence implies a sensory stimuli -- tactile, that is, plus visual and proprioceptive -- plus a dynamic voice emotional commentary -- congruent effect of a causal circumstance -- of "comfortably."

An antagonal comment could instead be fitfully slept, for example, and for a more finite time span, more dynamic of voice, this most recent night, slept fitfully, or fretfully, etc., on her bed of nails.

[ May 31, 2015, 04:29 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]
Posted by wetwilly (Member # 1818) on :
"Character development and depth, for example, artfully develop from events and reactions to them."

Good point. I don't expect to become a total pantser in the long run. I am curious to see the result if I let go of the reins and let my characters breathe. Maybe I'll learn something that I can take with me back to my normal writing process (which is about 75% planning and 25% discovery writing).
Posted by Disgruntled Peony (Member # 10416) on :
This may sound weird, wetwilly, but one thing that might help you with character development in interesting and unexpected ways is playing in a tabletop roleplaying game. I recommend a more story-focused system such as World of Darkness.

If that's not your thing, OSC wrote a book awhile on Characters and Viewpoint, and I found that helpful when I was starting out. (You probably know that, considering which forum we're in, but I thought I'd mention it just in case.)

I think the biggest key to developing well rounded characters is remembering that no one does anything 'just because'. The key is finding the character's core motivation(s). Once you have those, your characters will begin to come to life in interesting and unexpected ways.
Posted by extrinsic (Member # 8019) on :
Originally posted by Disgruntled Peony:
I think the biggest key to developing well rounded characters is remembering that no one does anything 'just because'. The key is finding the character's core motivation(s). Once you have those, your characters will begin to come to life in interesting and unexpected ways.

Before motivation comes a prior cause, usually antagonal. What, for example, motivates a detective? A puzzle to be solved, most often a crime mystery, the crime the external motivation. A congruent internal motivation requires self-involvement, usually if not always, a moral human condition -- the aesthetic feature of a persona's "character" -- congruent to the crime. An internal action's moral human condition is the motif of most significance for character depth.

Characterization's two axes are flat to round and static to dynamic; for depth, not just well-rounded, dynamic as well, meaning transformative action, external and internal, in which an action transforms a character's moral values as well as external circumstances.
Posted by wetwilly (Member # 1818) on :
I didn't mean to hijack this thread with my personal experiment, just thought I'd mention it since it is connected to, and in fact was inspired by, this discussion.

I believe I have the ability to create well-rounded, dynamic characters. That belief may be wrong. I think I can do it, though. I just find I often fall into the habit of thinking first about what the plot requires them to do rather than what they would actually do.

Anyway, enough talking about writing. I've got to go do some actual writing. (And thanks, fellow Hatrackers, for another thought-provoking, interesting discussion.)
Posted by Disgruntled Peony (Member # 10416) on :
Don't worry about thread hijacking, I'm the one who started the thread after all. XD I've gotten lots of helpful advice, I'm learning new things, and I'd like to hope others are getting things out of this too!

wetwilly, I'm sure your characters are well-rounded and I never meant to suggest otherwise. I was just trying to help out with approaching things from a character-first angle, because I tend to write that way in general (which is part of why I need to work on my outlining--I think I've gotten too focused on character over plot).

extrinsic, you made a good point about external conflict versus internal conflict. I hadn't thought about that in a conscious fashion for quite awhile.

I'd like to take a moment to thank everyone who has replied. I was honestly very nervous about posting about this at first, but I feel a lot more comfortable now, both about the subject and in general. I wish I'd joined this forum ages ago.
Posted by extrinsic (Member # 8019) on :
Outlines or summary sketches could be separate for plot -- a causal event sequence -- for characters collectively or individually, and likewise for settings. Several responses note using the summary outline method, summarized events in particular.

I don't see a a thread hijack, derail, or deviation, rather an example of an exploration of an alternative method, one that I presume and infer will lead to stronger narrative development skills through a melded plan-and-intuit method.

Dusty old bones Aristotle noted long ago that event, setting, and character development are matters of natural and necessary or probable circumstances; that is, for antagonal, causal, and tensional features and motifs: inevitable surprises. Their strengths for appeal purposes are that they are inevitable and surprising from what readers know beforehand, before dramatic moments and pivots peak and pique tension's emotional reader effects.

That latter above is the kernel function per scene sequence function I use for outline development. Best reader emotional effect. What's this or that scene segment's emotional function? For starts, urgency or anticipation, and further emotional disequilibrium development, for curiosity and empathy's sakes, besides other necessary introductions of a dramatic complication event and setting and character to which these are life-complicating and life-defining, larger-than-life circumstances.
Posted by wetwilly (Member # 1818) on :
No offense taken, Disgruntled One. You're more sure than I am of the quality of my characters (but the quality of my character is above reproach, I assure you [Wink] ). That wasn't an icy "I think I can write good characters, sir or ma'am, so how dare you suggest otherwise!" It was an honest self-assessment. I think I do it, but I'm not certain. It's a focus area for improvement for me at any rate.

I played RPGs in my younger years, but it's not so much my thing anymore. Just lost interest.

I'm finding it hard to stop myself from outlining in my head. I know stopping myself from planning ahead is silly, but it's just for this story, for the sake of the experiment. I want to leave the playing field wide open for my characters.
Posted by Grumpy old guy (Member # 9922) on :
Lajos Egri suggests you need to create a complete, three dimensional character in order to fully understand them. The three dimensions aren't spatial, they are: The Physical Dimension, The Psychological Dimension, and The Social Dimension. When the 'creator' knows all of the facets of a character they then know exactly how they will react to stimuli, or conflict, if you will.

He also suggest that to test how well you know your own characters ask them this: "What do you fear most?"

It's an enlightening exercise in creating character depth.

Posted by Disgruntled Peony (Member # 10416) on :
So, random update on the outlining process, because I think I've found something that works for me:

My "outline" for the short story I'm writing is basically a dialogue-esque explanation to the main character of what happens to him through the course of the story. It's not bulletin points; it's paragraphs, with each paragraph diagramming a scene. It's also the first outline I've managed to bang out for this story that actually makes sense from beginning to end. I don't know that I'm going to use this method every time, but for this story at least it works.
Posted by Grumpy old guy (Member # 9922) on :
Good, well done!

Posted by Kathleen Dalton Woodbury (Member # 59) on :
Sounds like a useful approach, Disgruntled Peony.

Thank you for sharing it. Who knows, it may be helpful to others as well?
Posted by extrinsic (Member # 8019) on :
Several writers and writer mentors of mine use a similar method. They start with an inspiration, of course, then mentally sketch a rudimentary plan, next, a rough draft mostly of raw dialogue that emerges more intuitively than intellectually. A next phase then fleshes out the dialogue with sensations and reactions, transitions, etc., for fully realized scenes and intellectually evaluates for unity features.

Another part of the dialogue method breaks into two approaches, one starts from the start of the action and progresses forward, another starts from a or the climax scene and writes back to the start of the action, then both complete the denouement -- the outcome of the action.

A challenge of the dialogue method is potential dialogue-heavy action or set speeches that tell the meaning of the narrative, more or less summary and explanation of the action one step removed from narrator tell by character tells instead. The set speech method is useful for intellectual assertions of moral law; the dialogue-heavy method, for discovery of moral truth. Neither is especially customary antagonal, causal, tensional event-driven plot, energetic, for which external action of a conflict resolution or complication satisfaction or both are a tangible action.
Posted by Disgruntled Peony (Member # 10416) on :
I'm not going to be using any phrasing from the outline in the story itself--it really wasn't character interaction so much as me telling "someone" (the character) the barebones basics of the story so I actually had it down concretely.

I needed an outline because when I originally started this story it was basically one random character insight that just kept evolving. Eventually (after it had languished untouched for several months) I realized I needed to actually decide how things went if I wanted to ever see it finished. I've been trying to actively work on the story since I joined the forum, but I've had to cut half of what I've written because some scenes ended up not mattering as the idea became more refined.

Yesterday I realized I needed to cut one of the original scenes I'd written. One of my favorite scenes. My brain tried to rebel. I was ready to rewrite the whole story to accommodate one scene until I realized the story was going to suffer for it.

I've cut it now, and thanks to the outline I know exactly how many scenes I need and have enough of an idea of what's going on to write it in an economical fashion. I honestly think it's one of the hardest things I've had to do as a writer. I've never been that attached to a scene I needed to cut before.

I'm excited, though. This is the closest I've come to finishing a story in years.
Posted by wetwilly (Member # 1818) on :
I know what you mean. I'm working on a story now that ended up too bloated in the first draft, at least for my taste (pushing 10,000 words). The word count wouldn't be such a problem if I thought it was needed, but I've been working on trying to write more economically, so in looking at where I could cut words, I realized that several entire scenes were not needed. But I really liked those scenes. They were funny. They had some great lines and character interactions in them. But, they didn't do any real work for the story. The story still worked (in fact, worked better, as much as I loathe to admit it) without them. So they're gone.

But I know what you mean. Pushing the delete button hurt. Those were some really fun scenes.
Posted by Disgruntled Peony (Member # 10416) on :
That's why I'm trying to make a habit of keeping old drafts... that way I can re-use things later if appropriate, or at least see where I've been.
Posted by Grumpy old guy (Member # 9922) on :
Recycling old, discarded scenes is an old writer's source of inspiration. A number of scenes that I've omitted from stories because, while I liked them, they didn't advance the plot or character development I have used as seeds for new stories.

There is an old saying, or maybe not that old, "Kill your darlings!"

For me, this means that in the end all scenes, phrases, and moments have the same innate value: they advance the story. Anything that either keeps a moment static, or worse, pushes the story backwards must be killed no matter how much we might like them. however, learning that type of dispassionate evaluation of your own work is tough!

Posted by extrinsic (Member # 8019) on :
I see, as if "make believe" told by summary secondhand and after the fact to an acquaintance?

I assume the conventions otherwise are of a straightforward simple plot, limited characters, settings, events, single complication, etc., and possibly a few minor complexities. Short fiction won't bear much complexity -- not enough word-count real estate for rich development.
Posted by Disgruntled Peony (Member # 10416) on :
Originally posted by extrinsic:
I see, as if "make believe" told by summary secondhand and after the fact to an acquaintance?

I assume the conventions otherwise are of a straightforward simple plot, limited characters, settings, events, single complication, etc., and possibly a few minor complexities. Short fiction won't bear much complexity -- not enough word-count real estate for rich development.

Pretty much, yeah. It's not standard fare, but it helped me determine what I did and didn't need to do, which is the goal.

There's one main character, one supporting character, a few minor characters, and an internal antagonist. I actually managed to bang out the last of the first draft at 3am this morning, but the second half of the story needs a lot of polish before I'm willing to share. I'd edited the first half three or four times over as I tried to figure out what I wanted, which means there's inconsistency in quality at the moment.
Posted by extrinsic (Member # 8019) on :
Originally posted by Disgruntled Peony:
Originally posted by extrinsic:
I see, as if "make believe" told by summary secondhand and after the fact to an acquaintance?

I assume the conventions otherwise are of a straightforward simple plot, limited characters, settings, events, single complication, etc., and possibly a few minor complexities. Short fiction won't bear much complexity -- not enough word-count real estate for rich development.

Pretty much, yeah. It's not standard fare, but it helped me determine what I did and didn't need to do, which is the goal.

There's one main character, one supporting character, a few minor characters, and an internal antagonist. I actually managed to bang out the last of the first draft at 3am this morning, but the second half of the story needs a lot of polish before I'm willing to share. I'd edited the first half three or four times over as I tried to figure out what I wanted, which means there's inconsistency in quality at the moment.

Maybe nonstandard for screened and published works, which pass into later and intensive revision phases; standard, though, for rudimentary plan and early draft compositions and once-and-done self-publication.

"an internal antagonist," if the self's antagonal persona or a "possession" that emblematically or symbolically represents internal moral crisis forces, holds powerful promises. Dramatic conflict: persons or forces in opposition, ideally diametric opposition, as like life and death, acceptance and rejection, nobleness and wickedness, riches and rags. An internal antagonist implies the possession possibility -- an antagonal persona conflict that could be an opposition force symbol or emblem too. Emblem: immutable, unchanging. Symbol, transformative and subject to change itself.

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