Layers of an Outline

I have to say, it feels good to be back in the swing of things with writing. I feel productive and happier with all these things going on. Even better, things are moving forward on a few fronts that I wasn’t sure would work out. Yes, it’s a good day so far today.

Right now, the outline for Rise Above is sitting at 9.5k words and I’m down to the last third of it, which is good. November is fast approaching, and I need to let the outline sit for at least a couple days before going in to review and revise it.

It’s been interesting, writing this outline. There’s a lot to this story, especially since this is the final book in the trilogy. I always go into those feeling huge pressure to begin with, because there’s so much to tie up and deliver on. Plus, being the final book, I want it to be memorable. I find those are the ones that stick with me most, the end of it all, and I doubt I’m the only one.

For RA, my notes have included some major stuff that has to happen and be wound into the plot pretty much from the beginning of the book. The problem is that, well, my memory is crap. I keep going back and reviewing my notes as a result and then I find something I haven’t built in that I should have, usually some fairly important subplot that’s been going on in the previous books. You know, exactly the sort of thing I need to tie up in this final book. *headdesk* At least I’m finding these things now, rather than, say, halfway through WRITING the book. Believe me, I’m taking full advantage of these little opportunities at the moment.

It’s one of the reasons I love outlining, to be honest, the ability to take a look at the overall plot and make sure things are where they need to be and make some sort of logical sense. It usually leads to less heavy rewriting after the first draft is done. There are a couple of fairly stunning counter-examples, where I have or will junk a whole manuscript and start over, but that’s largely because, in both cases, I learned later that I misunderstood the story I was telling. Oops.

No, I’m not suggesting anyone out there who doesn’t outline needs to. I know people, lots of them, for whom outlining doesn’t work. Like at all. I kind of admire these people and their ability to run into a story without knowing the whole thing and just let it be whatever it wants to be. I can’t do that, not while writing the words. In notes, yes, I can totally give the story that freedom. In outlines, I can mostly do that. While drafting? Not a chance, not if I want to complete the story and write those magical words, “The End.” I’m just not that kind of writer.

I’m thinking that, in the end, this is going to be one of my longer outlines, probably in the 15k word range. It might even go higher, and a new record length is possible. But as always, it’ll be whatever length it takes to outline this story. That’s the important part, right?

I keep telling myself that I’m almost there. Besides, the next couple sections should be pretty good. Some interesting stuff coming up.

About Julie

I'm a writer and photographer. I always have something with me to take notes for ideas or writing projects I'm thinking about or have on the go. I also like to go around with my camera and take pictures of anything that strikes me as beautiful or evocative. I'm perpetually working on one story or another, while waiting for enough distance to judge the last one (or more). I'm always working on several projects at once, developing the next book, even as I'm editing the last. Beyond that, there's always plenty of scraps and twists of ideas rolling around in my head, eventually turning themselves into full blown stories.
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3 Responses to Layers of an Outline

  1. Morgen Rich says:

    The last section of an outline is always the most exciting for me, too. Have you found that even with a detailed outline, the draft will still insist on a turn or two you hadn’t planned and that you have to deal with them in the draft stage? Or do you stick to the outline and worry about deviations during revision? Just curious what works for you. And yay! You’re almost to NaNoWriMo, and I can hardly wait to see you cranking out the word count!

    • Julie says:

      I too find that last section highly exciting. I suspect it’s because that’s where stuff usually gets nuts.

      To your question, I let things deviate if they need to. If it starts moving in a slightly different direction, one that feels natural, I follow it to see what happens. I’ve had whole scenes show up out of nowhere, or blow up from something that was just a passing reference in the outline. Some of the best bits of my work have come out of such unexpected places and I love it.

      I do try to think about all the things such a deviation might change before exploring it too far, just in case it trashes a lot of things and I have to rethink stuff, but usually it folds right in like it was always supposed to be there and I just didn’t know it at the time. I love that feeling.

      You know, I think I should do a blog post about this. *runs off to make notes*

  2. Pete Denton says:

    I’m lost without some sort of outline. I don’t always need to have one complete before I start drafting, but need some direction or else my characters just stand about waiting and staring at me. Very off-putting. Happy writing 🙂

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