Outline versus Outline
|My Literary Lounge|
One of the questions I got tagged in some months ago, was by Katie of Whisperings of the Pen, and set me on edge for how very timely it was. I can't say my response was brilliant... actually it is is all rather bewildering, but I thought you might be curious to know my response: do I outline before starting a novel? If so, how extensive an outline do I create? First of all, Katie, how on earth did you know that I've been wrangling my head over this question lately? I have yet to discover.
Generally, I am a very structured and un-disciplined writer at the same time (if you're thinking this is contradictory, well it is); but I am one who likes using 'the snow-flake' method, a little of free writing and a little of structured outlining, knowing ahead of time where I am going and what I'm doing (that's very important for me!), but at the same time with relative freedom to change and expand. With The Crown of Life I used to do a relatively extensive 'outline', but it was not a traditional one with points and subpoints etc (that I feel is too restricting). Basically what I do in the process of 'outlining' is to take time to think and talk over plot ideas and an outline of what happens in the story as ideas come (usually with the help of one of my sisters, a friend, etc) and then jot them down in my 'Ideas Notebook' so as to not forget them. When I have gathered a rough idea of how things are going in the next few chapters, I write a loose 'synopsis' of a couple of pages in length recording events/characters/themes and what happens next: sometimes I can go into great details with what happens in each scene, while at other times it is a little less so as I work more on themes or character development. With that 'synopsis' in hand I feel ready to write in my novel the next big scene. However, I give room for changes and new ideas and usually after any major phone-calls/facebook chats with one of my beta-writing friends or a discussion with one of my sisters I have new plot/character plans that contradict what's written in the synopsis which I had been planning to try fitting into the story. It can be a huge challenge to work out the jigsaw puzzle of scenes, but I try not to be too legalistic about the 'synopsis', because it is only a rough guide, a general map of the direction of the story. The harder part is when I've written a scene based off the synopsis and I get a new idea that demands I rework a passage for that earlier scene to fit the new idea, without knowing whether the new idea will turn out better than the first one! That is usually my biggest challenge, but often one I really have fun with (at least it was so with The Crown of Life). Since my ideas are continually revolving and evolving I have of late almost entirely dropped out on writing the 'synopsis' and instead I keep it stored in the deep caveats of my brain--not that it is a safer way using memory instead of a USB-flash, it just tends to take less time, and something of that seed of inspiration remains in my heart that can get lost in the translation in an outline. When all this is done, I then write a list of chapter titles in proper time-order which is the relative of a proper outline without being too restricting. So far, this method has worked splendidly with me and I've had no trouble on account of it. A Love that Never Fails has been giving me a lot more of trouble with plotting and outlining though, due to the fact that I currently have very little plot ideas to go on... the story seems devoid of a proper outline or plot at this early stage and I cannot recall what I did when I was in the early stage of 'The Crown of Life'. Did I use my outlines, did I know where I was going? I am still in search for answers, and for now, I am writing 'A Love that Never Fails' in a more haphazard 'just write' method which I will confess has been so far somewhat scary! But there is a sense of adventure too, in the 'not-knowing'. It is a fun ride!
So - how do you outline your novels as you write? Do you have one? Please, do tell!