Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Detailed Outline Didn't Work For Me


My first YA mystery/suspense begun from a detailed outline, ground to a halt.The excitement for the story had waned. I wasn't enjoying writing it, not because the scenes were hard, I just didn't like them as much as I thought I would.

Too many good scenes, twists and turns, sparked my imagination but I  pushed them away to stick to the outline.  Eight thousand words in, I quit.  Maybe I wasn't cut out to write YA and should stick with MG.

After taking a couple of days off I decided I should give it one last attempt by paying attention to one of those sparks.  This weekend I pulled up my document and started writing the scene where Shelby meets Matt for the first time. Within seconds I knew it wasn't going to be anything like the outline. Matt changed everything...he let me know he was the son of someone else--Oh, my gosh, it really changed the dynamics of the whole story. My pulse quickened, my fingers flew over the keyboard, and I fell in love with the story all over again. Yesterday, I crossed the 11,000 word mark and can't wait to work on it today.

So, I know for sure. I'm not a "seat of the pants" writer or a detailed planner. I do better with a rough outline that let's me know where I'm going but gives me the wiggle room I need to follow those sparks.

It feels good finally knowing that about myself!

17 comments:

  1. Catherine, you never could have known unless you tried. Now you know outlines aren't for you. So, in the end, and in a way, this was successful. The most important part is you picked the ms back up and kept going.

    A rough sketch of where I think the story is going to go, then go following those sparks works for me. (Actually, I've found I do better sometimes with just flying by the seat of my pants.)

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  2. You are so right, Andrea. I had always wondered if a detailed outline would be better for me since I slowly graduated from seat of the pants to rough outlines. It's good to know for sure what works best and I don't have to wonder anymore.

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  3. I'm with you on this. I can't do a detailed outline either. Too confining. For me it's getting the characters in my head. Know who they are, what their "story" (the plot) is. And then at this point, it does help if I "sketch" out the sections/chapters. And then, it's exciting when the characters start taking charge of the story....

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  4. This same thing happened to me when I decided to try outlining scenes heavily to see if it make my writing stringer and cleaner on the first draft--I wrote a few scenes and totally stalled because the mystery was gone. The good news is, I put the book away for 6 months, worked on something else to the point where I forgot all about the story, outline, etc and then I was able to write and finish the book.

    I brainstorm certain details, includeing knowing how the book will start and an idea of the climax scene, but I will always get to the point where I know it's time to stop thinking and start writing. It's like a feeling of knowing that if I figure out anything else about the book, there will be no need to write it.

    Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse

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  5. That sounds EXACTLY like the way I write.

    I detailed my latest piece, chapter-by-chapter.

    Heck, I'm still on the first chapter. I wrote last week, "Conrad, I do not love you."

    Conrad is my main character. Or he was, anyway. Out popped this second character the moment I wrote that sentence, and I realized I had the wrong POV, and that -- holy crap! -- I had a huge twist by introducing this guy!

    I can still stick somewhat to my outline (it's no bad), but I now have something that excites me as a writer to continue investigating.

    Outline shmoutline. Let the words fly like sliced pickles in a burger joint and see what sticks to the wall and what hits the floor and what gets you thrown out.

    - Eric

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  6. Ann, Angela, and Eric, I still find it amazing the way the characters and actions take on a life of their own, usually for the better.

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  7. Good for you for sticking through the outline, however. I'm sure it paid off in some ways and is probably not an either/or situation. Both creating an itinerary AND knowing when to depart from it are valuable skills!

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  8. This is just how I write too. I need to allow for some freedom while composing!

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  9. Thanks, Anne and Karen, for stopping by.

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  10. WOO! Awesome! I was right there with you in your renewed excitement. That is great you decided to leave the outline and see where it took you. I love it when the characters tell you what to do. Sounds like you are on to something huge! Way to go.

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  11. That's great you figured it out. I def. have to have wiggle room and am always willing to completely redo an outline if a spark ignites!

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  12. It is ALL about trial an error. I was just like you--I still feel bad about the novel I killed because I planned TOO much....and about the one I killed because I didn't plan enough. I'm like you--I need a small, rough outline and the rest by the seat of my pants. That works so much better for me.

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  13. Beth,I guess it's something all writers go through until they finally find the method that works best for them. Only took me...seven years...sigh

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  14. I can't follow an outline either, but I'll write them out to get familiar with my plot and character. Then, I ignore the outline to write the story.

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  15. Catherine, I've been looking for writers like you. While I am not a retired teacher, I'm getting close. Nevertheless, I am not waiting until that day to write a YA novel. I started my own "writing" blog to share experiences and to learn from others - especially more "mature" writers. I think we can help each other work through different issues that we might encounter that younger writers do not.

    I'm SO happy I found The Writing Room!

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  16. I'm so glad you aren't waiting to start getting serious like I did! I'm having the time of my life and you will, too! Thanks for stopping by and becoming a follower.

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