Outlining novels

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Outlining novels

Steve Litt
As I wrote before, I don't outline fiction, but if I DID outline fiction,
here's how I think I'd do it...

I'd try to split my novel into 3 or 4 parts that pretty much stand by
themselves. By limiting interactions of those 4 parts, their difficulty is 4
times one of them, instead of the much greater complexity of 1 that's 4 times
longer. I think interactions are what make writing tough.

Perhaps I'd even split those 4 parts into subparts. But that's as far as I'd
go. From then on, I'd write linearly.

By the way, I heard a rumor that J. K. Rowling outlined the entire Harry
Potter series before writing the first book, so that each book in the
sequence fit nicely with its predecessors.

SteveT

Steve Litt
Recession Relief Package
http://www.recession-relief.US

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Re: Outlining novels

Scott Scriven-2
* Steve Litt <[hidden email]> wrote:
> As I wrote before, I don't outline fiction, but if I DID
> outline fiction, here's how I think I'd do it...

I'm probably writing a nanovel this November in VO.  I haven't
really decided how to approach it, but at the very least it'll be
nice to have collapsable chapters.  I'll probably be using the
space prefix a lot, since colons would add to the word count.

(nanovel: what gets written during NaNoWriMo)

During the last 2 nanowrimos, I've done 5,000 lines of code
instead of 50,000 words of fiction, but I think this year I'll
actually go for a story instead of a program.  It should be fun.  
:)


-- Scott
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Re: Outlining novels

Bill Powell
+++ Scott Scriven [21/09/08 03:40 -0600]:
> * Steve Litt <[hidden email]> wrote:
> > As I wrote before, I don't outline fiction, but if I DID
> > outline fiction, here's how I think I'd do it...
>
> I'm probably writing a nanovel this November in VO.  I haven't
> really decided how to approach it, but at the very least it'll be
> nice to have collapsable chapters.  I'll probably be using the
> space prefix a lot, since colons would add to the word count.
>

Neat thread! I've been using VO to outline my fiction for
years. I'll outline character information in one file, plot
in another.

Earlier Steve expressed concern that outlining would make
fiction too predictable. This is a long-running debate among
writers; some say you should outline, some (Ray Bradbury is
a notable example) maintain that the initial surge of
creativity needs to pour directly into a rough draft or
you'll lose it.

I've tried both, and I think you can use both, or a
combination. But I don't think outlining causes
predictability. Outlining fiction, just as with nonfiction,
actually allows you to generate whole piles of ideas, then
pick the absolute best. For the normal human mind, your
first ideas are probably your more predictable ideas ...
sometimes it takes time to work around to the good stuff. If
you take that time, you wind up with a much _less_
predictable story.

Bill

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Re: Re: Outlining novels

Steve Litt
On Sunday 21 September 2008 09:57:47 am Bill Powell wrote:

> +++ Scott Scriven [21/09/08 03:40 -0600]:
> > * Steve Litt <[hidden email]> wrote:
> > > As I wrote before, I don't outline fiction, but if I DID
> > > outline fiction, here's how I think I'd do it...
> >
> > I'm probably writing a nanovel this November in VO.  I haven't
> > really decided how to approach it, but at the very least it'll be
> > nice to have collapsable chapters.  I'll probably be using the
> > space prefix a lot, since colons would add to the word count.
>
> Neat thread! I've been using VO to outline my fiction for
> years. I'll outline character information in one file, plot
> in another.
>
> Earlier Steve expressed concern that outlining would make
> fiction too predictable. This is a long-running debate among
> writers; some say you should outline, some (Ray Bradbury is
> a notable example) maintain that the initial surge of
> creativity needs to pour directly into a rough draft or
> you'll lose it.
>
> I've tried both, and I think you can use both, or a
> combination. But I don't think outlining causes
> predictability. Outlining fiction, just as with nonfiction,
> actually allows you to generate whole piles of ideas, then
> pick the absolute best. For the normal human mind, your
> first ideas are probably your more predictable ideas ...
> sometimes it takes time to work around to the good stuff. If
> you take that time, you wind up with a much _less_
> predictable story.
>
> Bill

I'm going to try limited outlining for my next fiction. For one thing, I'll
use Martin's idea of outline as dump storage.

The other thing I'm going to do is VERY LIMITED outlining to split the work
into autonomous parts, in order to limit interpart interactions. Also, doing
this will, on a very macro level, make sure that there's a route from
beginning to end.

When first writing "28 Tales of Troubleshooting", the flagship story was
supposed to be a Troubleshooting Hurricane/Economic collapse short story. But
first I painted myself into a corner where it became very difficult to
introduce troubleshooting, and then while I was trying to dig myself out
Katrina hit, so that publishing this story would have been in very poor
taste. Instead, I wrote "Heather's Revenge". Heather's Revenge garnered much
praise as a "Troubleshooting Business Novel", but I don't think it had the
standalone entertainment value that the disaster story would have.

Anyway, Katrina's a distant memory for most, so I could theoretically publish
the disaster short story again. But if I do, this time I'll outline so that
any corners I get painted into are low level and easy to fix without major
alterations of the story structure. Perhaps I can make it a 100,000
Troubleshooting/Disaster Novel! Meanwhile, by outlining only the highest
levels, I still leave the book open to the twists and turns that come with
linear, stream of consciousness authoring.

SteveT

Steve Litt
Recession Relief Package
http://www.recession-relief.US

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