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May 1st, 2005, 11:14 AM
I am buried in the midst of my novel and I have become lost in my plot. I know how things start, and how things end and some pieces in the middle, but I have been having trouble fleshing out and connecting things together. I know there are probably a lot of people in a similar situation, so I thought I would ask the question of the group.

How do you outline? What software do you use or how do you draw them out? traditional outlines don't seem to give me what I need. I have tried to draw them out in MS PowerPoint, but that doesn't seem to work too well either. Excel seems to enforce too linear a structure. What I am trying to accomplish is a way to indicate plot incidents and how they inter-relate as well as which subplot they are a part of.

Most of the searches I have done here and elsewhere talk about whether people outline or not, or how much. I was wondering how others outline, instead.



May 1st, 2005, 11:25 AM
Try the snowflake method.

You can find it here (http://www.rsingermanson.com/html/the_snowflake.html)

A few people on the forums here use it and I've used it myself and think it may be useful to you.

Hope it helps! :)

May 1st, 2005, 01:12 PM
Thanks James,

I have actually tried the snowflake method before; but have not had much success with it. I find it a little too top down. Like the author, I am a software developer, and I use a snowflake method all the time in software development where high level goals and requirements are broken down again and again until you end up with the proper "modules" to develop code with.

When I write, I tend to do a combination of top down and bottom up. For instance there is a love triangle in my story, so I know there are basic points to expand (e.g. a scene with each person with the other to develop the triangle).

I guess what I am really looking for is how to represent the outline. The snowflake method is still essentially text where sentences become paragraphs. I find that the purely textual approach makes it difficult to get the big picture of the work, as well as seeing how the different plot lines will fit together. I have tried a couple of different block/arrow diagrams, and spreadsheet type formats, but none has been satisfactory.

Does anyone else here represent their stories in a more visual format? If so, what works for you?


May 1st, 2005, 06:21 PM
I start by writting scenes, especially when I have an idea of where they story is going, then if I need to, for example, when I am working on something which will be complex, I use the scenes as the basis for..well.. what ends up looking something like a flow chart, except worse. The big question at that point being, how do I get from this scene to that scene so the next scene makes any sense?

Sometimes I have to change things earlier in the story because it doesn't support what happens later. Then, after years and decades of man hours editing, I have something that begins to look like a story.

May 1st, 2005, 06:29 PM
Yes. My trouble is I am having difficulty keeping the entire thing in my head. Seeing how the sub plots intertwine, are my characters getting a much print space a they should (some of the them are real prima donnas :) ). Its just not easy for me to do this. And I have tried paper flow charts but there ends up being so much redundant information.

So as of this afternoon, I have decided to stop copmlaining and start coding! I am in the process of writing a novel organization tool to help me out. If it gets to a reasonable state, I will post it where other people can download and use it for themselves.


May 1st, 2005, 06:38 PM
What about just using folders in wordpad or notepad or whatever?

If the name of the novel is "Fantasy" for example then the main folder would be called fantasy. Then you have subfolders for Fantasy/Characters (then maybe Fantasy/Characters/Johnboy), Fantasy/Plots, etc. Under plots you could have Fantasy/Plots/Johnboy_Plots or whatever. Then when you get an idea you want to make sure you remember you just put it in the appropriate folder.

You could also tie folders together by saying stuff like "see folder Fantasy/Characters/Johnboy" if you want to remind yourself to look in another folder for additional pertinent information.

I'm not sure if that is what you are looking...

May 1st, 2005, 06:40 PM
I just write my outlines out in a word doc, with a few paragraphs for each chapter.

One author I know works out how many scenes each character wants/needs/deserves, and then writes down their scenes on post-it notes. Once everyone's scenes are down she mixes them up to create a single narrative. Don't think it could work for me, but I'm sure it could work for some people.

May 1st, 2005, 08:01 PM
I think regular paper is necessary or the computer. For me, I just figure out where I want said story to end and then let my mind stew on it a bit. It's like life, you think of the destination and then you work on the road to get there.

May 1st, 2005, 08:37 PM
I don't think I follow any particular method and to be honest I had never even heard of the Snowflake! I generally start writing, no plan just instinct and a need to put something on paper.
However, since I have started and been stuck on one particular piece I have also worked on visuals in tandem with words. I draw visuals of stuff that comes up. So one of the first things I found I had to do was sketch my main character, draw up a town map etc but this was more a compulsion on my part. I don't have images of every character.
Its been a few years now and I have also added a character description section (because for some reason I always blank on eye-colour..) and an interview with certain characters, which started because I wanted to define motivations and put their voices on paper (yup they talk to me now... :) )
Thats it, now I am going off to read this snowflake method...

May 1st, 2005, 09:53 PM
Pluvious, Mistri,

The problem that I have with all text outlines like that, is that I have trouble seeing the big picture. I am hoping to put together a more visual way of looking at things.