Friday, June 7, 2013

Outlining, Schmoutlining

     I like winging it.
     A manuscript would take much less time to produce if I had a blueprint before I started writing. But really, it's wishful thinking.
     Aside from a few pages of vague notes, my characters perform better if I don't boss them around in the rough draft stage. I've told them an outline would help. They don't care. But I'll keep trying, and when I see a different method for outlining, I take notice.
     I found an interesting exercise for outlining the other day over at Teaching Authors. This exercise was conceived by Alicia Rasley, but was brought to my attention by TA contributor Jeanne Marie Grunwell Ford. Thank you, Jeanne Marie!
     In "Outline Your Novel in 30 Minutes", Rasley suggests you set a timer and answer a set of nine questions, allowing yourself three minutes for each question. Touching on plot points and character motivations, the questions allow you to respond quickly without becoming bogged down with the details. Honestly, it may take you more time to read the article and prepare yourself mentally than the actual exercise.
     I can see this exercise as a useful tool to use a few times in the early stages of writing. I'll be trying it for the first time today as a warm-up. Try as they may, my characters won't be able to stop me.


  1. I have never been one for outlines either, although I have acquired a lot of notes of my next novel idea while I procrastinate actually writing it. Thanks for sharing the link for the exercise. I'm off to check it out. . .

  2. Haha, yes to the notes made while procrastinating! The 'next project' always seems much more interesting than the current one.

  3. I hope it works for you, Dawn! I've always been a pantser but am slowly converting to a semi-outliner. I like the method in the structure chapters in STORY ENGINEERING.

  4. Thanks for the title, Marcia. I'll check that one out, too. I tried it this afternoon and it worked fairly well!

  5. Thanks so much Dawn and great to see you again! Thanks so much for the link ... sounds useful and I will save it to check it out later - no, not really procrastib....ination; in throes of moving house! From big to small! (you can if you care to check it out on my blog ...)
    Thanks for the advice about the article probably being longer than the exercise - does the author say what those 9 questions are? I know that I must check this out myself ... perhaps I can ponder while sorting files etc ... will report back.
    And thanks to Marcia about STORY ENGINEERING - this sounds most useful ...

  6. ps thank you Alicia Rasley for the article and Jeanne for pointing it out. I think I must print the article and ponder while sorting files ...
    Now to look at STORY ENGINEERING ... will report back

  7. Susan, yes, Rasley gives you the questions to answer. The key to a successful exercise is to do it FAST! Hopefully you will find time after your move to check it out. And good luck with your move, BTW. I can't imagine condensing from big to small at this point but someday it must be done.

  8. Thanks Dawn - checked out the larry Brooks re story engineering - was tempted to but via amazon and kindle one of his books but common sense prevailed ...
    Am writing this MUCH later ... did NOT ponder etc the questions ala Rasley but WILL in due course .. too busy with fetching boxes etc and meeting someone at the townhouse who gave me such good ideas re streamlining things - esp in my study.
    Hope you're having an excellent weekend.

  9. My style's evolving too. Nowadays I prepare a rough outline knowing that I won't stick to it. Then I revise it as I go along, and keep revising as my characters take me places I didn't plan on going. (But the outline keeps me on point so my characters don't veer me into a completely different story!) I think that's the real fun of writing.

  10. I think I'm going to try it immediately! Sounds nice. I want to write a book and I know the story is somewhere inside me, but I cannot take it out! I might try this exercise! Thanks so much for the tip!


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