Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Logical Conclusions

I don't outline.

Hate it.

For me, the fun of writing is discovering the story as I go. If I outline, I know the story. If I know the story, I don't bother to write it. (Same reasons why I don't read the end of books first: if I know the end, I don't bother to read it.)

BUT. This does not mean I don't need a bit of forethought.

I say I don't outline, but I do have a general idea of where the story is going. I need to know that much, at least, so I can set up the story. Without conflict, I don't have plot--so I need characters who can find that conflict and solve that conflict.

Even for people who don't outline like me, I do find it necessary to list out the main points I want to get to in the story. That way, if I feel as if I'm drifting or rambling, I check those main plot points. Does the rambly bit fit with one of the plot points? If so, I carry on. If not, I delete and start over.

And this is where the only problem with writing without outlines comes in for me. Sometimes, I get stuck. I have characters here and I need them there. And they don't want to go.

How do I build that bridge? I try to think of logical conclusions. Going backwards often helps. What do I need them to do? What, logically, would make them want to do it, or need to do it?

So, how about you? How do you get un-stuck?


Mim said...

To get unstuck I usually blow something up or throw in an event from out of nowhere that changes the direction of the plot line completely. Since I'm writing fantasy I actually can get away with explosions, but it can be a relationship, a dream or a goal that gets blown up by a bad day, another person or a self-discovery. So far no one seems to think my explosions are not logical or seem forced--so I guess it works.

Unknown said...

I can't outline on paper, but I outline like crazy in my mind. I've found that, before I write, I picture what's going to happen, sometimes repeatedly, and then it pretty much writes itself. I'm also okay with skipping around ... if I'm at a sticky stopping point, I'll figure out what's happening a bit later in the piece and start visualizing, and then it all seems to work out. Hope things are going well :)

Traci said...

If I did outline...I would just change it anyway. I like to discover too! Sometimes my characters do things that surprise me even! LOL

Michelle D. Argyle said...

I don't like strict outlines at all. I like them loose and fluid. Maybe you just need to outline very loosely? That might be helpful. It's always fun to shift stuff around. You sound like you just don't like to be boxed in. I don't either. :)

PJ Hoover said...

The going backwards idea is a great one. I need to employ this tactic more often.
Sometimes I outline tons. Other times not so much. Trying to see what works best for what.

PurpleClover said...

I talked about this a few months back and it seems everyone is divided on it.

My personal preference for the mani I'm writing now (can I coin the term "mani" for manuscript?) is half-outline. For the research I did an outline type thing. But I only go as far as it takes to see the story. The rest is left up to the characters.

So basically I know most of my characters (many get added in on a whim) and I know the skeletal story...I know basically want I want the end to be like but I realize it will change by the time I get there. So my thing is to use an outline until I set the pen to paper (or my in case finger to keyboard) and then the outline goes out the window.

Pick your characters. Pick your story. Then let the characters decide how to tell it.

Advice to get from point A to point C without making something rediculous up? My resolve when that happened (recently) was to sit on the mani for a while until something popped out at me in the internet through idea came to me. Then I was back at the drawing board. The other suggestion is even if something sounds cheesy...just add it in...and then later you can come back and finesse it.

There were a couple points in my mani that I just wanted to stop but I pushed through as grueling as it was and now I read the parts I hated and they don't sound half-bad...just a litte finesse and it will work.

Davin Malasarn said...

I feel very much the way you do about outlining. I get bored if I know what's going to happen. But, after I've done a few drafts of my book, I don't mind outlining then. By that point I've gotten to arrive at the end on my own, so now I can use an outline to organize my thoughts without ruining the excitement.

Elana Johnson said...

I totally don't outline. So I'm with you on that. For me, when I get stuck, it helps to talk it out with someone who's at least a little familiar with the story. My critmates are great for this. Even if they don't know the story, they're willing to listen to a few basic plot points and they can give me some fresh ideas on how to move forward.

I think it's hilarious you posted this today! My WiP Wednesday post is very similar (how do I end this thing?). Ha ha!

Tabitha said...

There seems to be something in the air, because I just responded to a thread on the SCBWI discussion boards similar to this. :)

When I get stuck, I go to my character and try to understand why she ended up where she did. I have her tell me in diary format, and once I understand then I can fix the problem. If I still can't understand, then I go brainstorm with my crit-mates (like Elana). There's nothing like crit-mates for this, because they're much farther removed from the story than you are. :)

Unknown said...

Mim: I'm working on a murder mystery right when I get stuck, I just kill someone else! Same concept, and it totally works ;)

KLo: I do visualize a lot...I never thought of thinking as a form of outlining, but that is so true...

Litgirl: I know my writing's good when my characters surprise me!

PJ: I only knew about that trick because I figured it out today ;) But it did work for the point I was stuck on!

Purple Clover: Many people are very divided about this topic! At my last conference, an agent made a speech where she (essentially) said that no manuscript was worthwhile unless it had been outlined first. You should have seen the Outrage! that caused!!!

Davin: I'm so glad I'm not the only one! I actually though a whole bunch of you would have said: "What? She doesn't outline? Get the pitchforks!"

Elana: My official talk-it-out person is the husband. Although he's started to get tired of me pumping him for good ways to kill off characters...

Tabitha: Oh, that's a good plan! I never thought of a diary format thing!

Anonymous said...

I try to go back to two things. First, what does--at the end of this scene--my hero need/want to do next. What is a step they can take to try that and who/what can create some obstacles. I get as close as I can to feeling like I might be right, then I write that scene & just see how it goes.

The other thing I do is look at where each of my main story threads (usually tied to a distinct character) is. Maybe one of those is setting up for the next step. Can I tie that into my hero's goal, or make them conflict with each other?

And sometimes, I just make a cup of tea, settle into my rocking chair, close my eyes, and visualize/think about my hero in a place/moment/situation & see what's up with them.