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Author Topic: Outlines?
caelestis
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I won't say this is always a problem for me, but I do wonder what other people (and 'real'/published writers) have to say about this. If I am not exactly sure how I'm going to end a story I've started, is it best not to proceed until I have an outline and an ending? Often what happens to me is that I begin with a nice strong idea, then somewhere along the way I lose steam and realize I don't have an ending planned out. Problem is, when I begin a story after writing some outlines and notes, I almost feel like I have to conform what I'm writing to the outline I came up with (when obviously, it's my story and my outline and I can change whatever I want). Anyone have comments on this and what has worked for them?
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Spaceman
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I pretty much know the beginning and end before I start. Finding out how I get from here to there is the interesting part. I don't outline.
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starsin
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I have a beginning usually...but from there, I like to keep things open...y'know, give you some more breathing space. I just write and let the end come to me on its own. It doesn't really work out, but I'm just writing to jack around (figuratively speaking).

- starsin


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arriki
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The wonderful thing about first drafts for me is that I don't have to know how it turns out. I just go along telling myself what the most interesting thing to have happen next is. Then comes the BIG problem of turning THAT into a real story with beginning, middle, and super ending plus a lot of good tension along the way.
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Spaceman
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It still confounds me how anybody can write without knowing in advance what the climax of the story will be.
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trailmix
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I have a general idea of the beginning, middle and end of my storyies but I never write it down. I keep it in my head where it is more pliable. On the occasion I do write it down, it feels resrictive.

While the story bounces around in my head I ussually find much more interesting connections, which lead to an entirely new beginning, middle and end.


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Zero
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I have found that if I proceed without an outline I get writer's block and I either force a contrived ending, or, more often, I never finish. So, I must outline. But if I outline I feel restricted a little on how flexible I can be and how far I can entertain a crazy-radical new idea that just might push my story from mediocre to genius.

So, what I end up doing is let my story mill around in my head for the better part of the year, write good notes of my ideas. And every time I get an inspiration. Eventually it all gets sorted out, mostly in my head, and eventually becomes a detailed and coherent outline. If I give myself enough time to consider all the angles ahead of time, when it comes to writing I never hit a block and I never hit new radical ideas, since, they've already come and been established or rejected.

For me my problem is alack of patience, get past that and everything is peachy.


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Robert Nowall
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I've been mixing it up. Sometimes I don't use an outline---my novel in progress passed seventy thousand words and I only know what will happen about two chapters ahead, and working without notes.

Sometimes I do---last January I wrote up a five page outline of a novelette, and followed it fairly closely, winding up at the end with twenty-five thousand words. (The thing needs a lot of work---it's too long for something that has only two major characters and six characters altogether.)

I hope to combine approaches in what I tackle next (that story I mentioned in a recent post about "how late is too late?") where I've got a good outline of the beginning and the end, but need to fill in the middle---hopefully at shorter length than the above two stories...


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Antinomy
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I don’t outline -- although I have done it in longer pieces where each line item represented a chapter.

I start with a general idea of the story I want to write, usually based on a “what if” situation.

The beginning must have enough action/promise to interest the reader. And it is probably my most rewritten paragraph.

The middle is like a battlefield or a ballgame with ups and downs, conflicts, roadblocks, problems and solutions where the reader adapts to and empathizes with the MC.

The ending, to my way of thinking, must reach some kind of resolution that will satisfy the reader’s investment of time. I try not to break the reader’s trust in me since I despise endings that appear as though a page were missing, or the author got bored and quit.

The end will be no more than an inkling of an idea that I will mentally massage in between writing bouts.

I’ve always admired Alfred Hitchcock, and try for irony whenever I can make it work. When I fail at an ending, the thought process stays with me daily until a better idea come to mind.


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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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This question comes up every so often, and I mean often.

I ran a search and made a list of topics that discussed this, and rather than post it here, I've put it in the FAQs area:

http://www.hatrack.com/forums/writers/forum/Forum3/HTML/000025.html


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caelestis
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Wonderful, I will check that out, and thank you for all the responses! I suppose I'm doing just fine without having "outlines" for what I write - I know the ideas I want to get across to the reader and the characters/relationships I want to establish, and I just go from there. Glad to know that isn't necessarily a "bad" or "wrong" way to do things.
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