Results 1 to 11 of 11
  1. #1
    There is no tomorrow RedMage's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2009
    Location
    caught in the whirlwind of my imagination
    Posts
    1,248

    Outlining when the story is already written

    So this is a question to all you outliners out there. As I have explained elsewhere around the forums, I have a story I wrote as a short novella and that I am now trying to expand to full novel length. I have lots of new ideas and plenty of story to make this expansion happen. But when I go to outline my scenes, both old and new, I am extremely reluctant to do so as I feel I already know what happens and, thus, I stop before I begin. Yet, as detailed outliner, I have trouble writing the story without the map that the outline provides.

    Have any of you other outliners encountered this or similar trouble? Any helpful tips you might want to share?

  2. #2
    It could be worse. ~tmso Moderator N. E. White's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2009
    Location
    Northern California
    Posts
    5,189
    Blog Entries
    18
    Well...that's a good question. I have no idea, but I can speak of my own experience.

    I spent the past two years doing just that (wrote a short story, outlined a novel from it, and then expanded it - twice), and, well, after a lot of work, it sucks. I am about to embark on another two-year journey to write a novel completely from scratch (meaning, outline first, then write it).

    Whether you outline, not outline, or some mixed hybrid of the two, you just have to find what works for you and the story.

    Not sure if that helps, but there it is.

  3. #3
    I totally sympathize with lack of motivation because you already know what happens - I outlined a lot before Nanowrimo this year, and then had trouble getting into the story because I had already figured it out!

    Maybe you could start with an extremely short outline?
    Ch. 1 - Protag gets new job
    Ch. 2 - New job discussion with Protag, Friend A, Friend B (foreshadowing)
    Ch. 3 - New job starts

    Then maybe you could trick yourself into getting through it quickly, and expand it later.

  4. #4
    There is no tomorrow RedMage's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2009
    Location
    caught in the whirlwind of my imagination
    Posts
    1,248
    That is pretty much what I've got at the moment, Nicole. I am a pretty detailed outliner; it helps me stay on track as to where I want to go with the story and how I want to get there. For instance, when planning a conversation between characters I will decide what it is they are talking about, why they are talking about it now (of course! lol), who is saying what (different perspectives, personalities, etc.) and what the outcome is. This conversation outline can be in varying levels of depth. But, sometimes, I get so into what is happening that I will just write the conversation right their in the outline because I know exactly what is being said. I don't know if that helps you understand my process any or not but there it is.

    TMSO--quality of the expanded product aside, what was your experience like in expanding the short story to a full novel? Was it one of the ones I've read?? How did you go about deciding to expand it and then, how did you make it happen? I know, I know, everyone's writing experience is wholly unique and often times we can't put it into words. But, if you are able and willing, I would like knowing how you did it.

  5. #5
    It could be worse. ~tmso Moderator N. E. White's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2009
    Location
    Northern California
    Posts
    5,189
    Blog Entries
    18
    Quote Originally Posted by RedMage View Post
    TMSO--quality of the expanded product aside, what was your experience like in expanding the short story to a full novel? Was it one of the ones I've read?? How did you go about deciding to expand it and then, how did you make it happen? I know, I know, everyone's writing experience is wholly unique and often times we can't put it into words. But, if you are able and willing, I would like knowing how you did it.
    Did...did someone just ask me to write about...how I wrote for the past four (yes, four, not really two, if I am honest) years?

    You have opened the floodgates. You have been warned.

    Well, it all started when I was about six years old and my brother stuck a pitchfork in my left eye...okay, let me skip ahead a bit...

    I wrote a flash fiction piece that was really just a glimpse into a character's life. At a crucial point in her life, but just a glimpse. I really had no idea what I was doing with that story, but some folks liked it. So, I thought I'd keep going with the story and expand it into a novella. The problem was: I didn't like that character. So, I made up a different character that would hunt her down and other supernatural creatures. I soon realized that his story was too big for a novella and it turned into a very bad novel. It felt cobbled together and it read that way, too. (Did you read that one - Devil's Blood?) Anyway, I hired a writing coach and she helped me hash out a new outline for that character and I re-wrote his story (The Denouncer - or did you read this one?). That didn't come out so good either. I think, because I'm a lazy writer (too much telling not enough showing), and because after spending so long with that character and world, I just don't want to work on it anymore.

    However, the outline for that second story (The Denouncer) is really good - and fairly detailed. It notes every major event in the story and why it is important to my characters. It also includes the emotional arc of the story. I still like it and so do others. Everything is there for a good story, but like they say, it is not the idea that counts, but the execution. I didn't lose interest in the story while I was writing it. At least, I don't think so. But I did rush through it.

    So, I guess, if I have learned anything in the past four years, it is not to sweat the outline too much. If needed, write out the minimal details that you need to move forward, but mostly focus on the story rather than the meta-writing. I guess.

    Does that help?

  6. #6
    Greymane Wilson Geiger's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2011
    Location
    The Great Arch
    Posts
    1,021
    Funny enough (or not funny, depending on the outcome!), this is exactly how I got on track with a novel in progress. I wrote a couple of flash fic entries, loved the character, it seemed to be enjoyed by a few, and I decided to take it to the next level. Along the way I wrote a short story contest entry, set in the same world, but with a different protagonist (who may not have even been a very good one), and then it seemed to sort of fall into place. I had my protagonist, an antagonist, and a shared world, and from there I outlined the story, with a firmer beginning/ending and a loose middle. I'm still not sure if it will actually be any good when it's finished, but it's got me writing steadily, and that's the important part.

    I'm not sure that I really have any good advice for you RedMage, other than to say that if you need the outline to write, then you just need to struggle through it, knowing that in the end it will help you tell the story. I keep mine loose on purpose, because you never know when a character will stray from what you think they will do, and that's when beautiful things happen. Or very, very bad things.

  7. #7
    KMTolan kmtolan's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2008
    Location
    Near Austin TX
    Posts
    1,327
    Quote Originally Posted by RedMage View Post
    So this is a question to all you outliners out there. As I have explained elsewhere around the forums, I have a story I wrote as a short novella and that I am now trying to expand to full novel length. I have lots of new ideas and plenty of story to make this expansion happen. But when I go to outline my scenes, both old and new, I am extremely reluctant to do so as I feel I already know what happens and, thus, I stop before I begin. Yet, as detailed outliner, I have trouble writing the story without the map that the outline provides.

    Have any of you other outliners encountered this or similar trouble? Any helpful tips you might want to share?
    What are outlines for? To guide your framework and little more than that. If you know what happens, then why the trouble? Outline only the things you need to know if you have the rest down pat in your head. It's like obsessing over the hammer rather than building the shed, eh? Can't remember? Outline. Can remember? Don't bother.

    Kerry

  8. #8
    There is no tomorrow RedMage's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2009
    Location
    caught in the whirlwind of my imagination
    Posts
    1,248
    All good things. Thanks tmso for sharing your experience. No, I haven't read either of those 2 versions of that story. I think I've only read a short story of yours and an outline/premise for another.

    To clarify my process further, I don't need the outline. For the novella version of this story I had no anxiety or even a reason to have an outline. I remember wondering if I should make one but such a short piece (18K words) I didn't really need it because, like you guys are saying, I knew what was happening and the very next step at every point in the writing. However, for longer works like a full novel I definitely feel anxious about having an outline. When I have one I typically write on the computer with both the story document and the outline open and, even with that, I will often copy the oultine of the chapter or scene I'm working on into the story document so I don't have to flip back and forth so much. Really, it's a way to keep me from rambling, a thing I tend to do.

    But thanks all for your advice. I think, when I think about the story, that I work myself up about forgetting one of the new ideas or about something I've changed between the novella and what I want to do with the full novel. But you're right, I should just outline those parts that I am worried about forgetting or how to execute it in the story.

  9. #9
    Palinodic Moderator KatG's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2003
    Location
    In an Ode
    Posts
    12,204
    Hmm, you may have to accept that this project is different so your brain is using a different process and fighting that to try and follow what you think you "should" do or need may be counter-productive. What you might want to try is not outlining new material and instead, do an outline for the novella that is already written. That outline, rather than a working outline, would simply be a summary outline of what scenes you have and what plotlines you have -- a story bible. With that laid out in outline form -- easy to flip through, all the information there so it's not forgotten -- then you may work on new scenes for the expanded story exactly the way you did the initial scenes for the novella -- with no outline except the ideas you already jotted down. You know what is happening in the novella framework you've created and you know what you want to write to expand it because of your ideas and notes for that expansion. So in a sense, you already have the outline, know where you are going and can simply write the scenes by copying bits of expansion notes and summary novella outline into the ms. and writing scenes from there. Or at least it's an option if the other way doesn't work for you.

  10. #10
    There is no tomorrow RedMage's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2009
    Location
    caught in the whirlwind of my imagination
    Posts
    1,248
    A good idea KatG. I think that is what I am coming down to, outlining only the expansion scenes and whichever original scenes I have changed. I've only ever had one real way of organizing my chapters while writing and one way of how I plan out scenes. But all that has undergone a drastic change over the last two years. I have become comfortable (or relatively) with being open to the idea of chapter organization being dependent upon the particular story. My idea of how I do planning, however, is another matter entirely. I am still struggling with it but everyone's comments have helped immensely. Thank you. Things are really coming into focus for another, but related project than the one I discussed above and I think, really, that I just need to either see that one through or put the breaks on it so that I can work on this one. Only then will I be able to solve the problem.

    Thanks again, I will return here to remind myself of your advice on this issue when the time comes to tackle it.

  11. #11
    There is no tomorrow RedMage's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2009
    Location
    caught in the whirlwind of my imagination
    Posts
    1,248
    Things are going much better with this than they were two weeks ago. I think I was really having a hard time because I had stepped away from that particular story and went to work on another instead because I had become stuck and didn't know what to do and, with no map (outline) like I have had for other stories to turn me back in the right direction, I was feeling completely lost.

    Now I am working on the story this thread is regarding again. I have become unstuck and things are moving along slowly but surely. I have the whole Christmas week off from work and then I will return there on Jan 2. I'm planning on taking that time as a working holiday to work on this story, as well as to relaunch the monthly goal setting threads that had been on this here forum for a while until this last spring. With a start like that, I think this next year of 2013 is going to be fantastic and I can't wait to get started! Thanks for your guys' help and encouragement!

Tags for this Thread

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •