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I told myself I wasn’t going to start writing on my next story until the New Year, so instead I finished up the nonfiction project I was putting off (and now my sister has stopped bugging me about it.) Then I started researching story structure and outlining techniques. I set out to create an outline for the new story, and as it went through several iterations, and became increasingly detailed, I started asking myself, if I know so much about this story, why not just write it? So I must confess, I’ve begun...couldn’t help it. 😝

 

Hopefully, with a real, true writerly outline and structure, this one will be the best yet. I always thought of myself as a planner/outliner, but I don’t think I realized until now how much planning the planning types actually do before getting to the “good part.” So I have to take my (imaginary) hat off to all you real planners out there. I guess I’m somewhere in between...

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As you know - I did a similar thing with 'Hannah'. That was s first for me too and I have to say although the process of writing the whole story out and then revising it before actually writing the manuscript, was at times frustrating the end product was well worth the effort.

 

I didn't get stuck at any point, I had worked out my character's roles and motivation in the story and researched the world I planned to write about.

 

Not sure I would do this for every book but it certainly proved worthwhile. Like you I take my hat off to all those planners out there.

Good luck with the project.

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On the one hand, I'm a great fan of planning and organizing as an initial step in any project: writing or otherwise. In some parts of my career, doing so was literally a matter of life or death, and even where it wasn't, it helped make large complexities manageable. 

 

On the other hand, we've probably all seen works of creativity that suggest there are minds that think a hundred times faster, and a hundred times better than we do. We'll do all we can to tap into that, and nurture that elusive creative seed that grows only where it chooses.

 

So, while outlining and other planning may be best practices in many situations, we may sometimes need to explore other paths, where that seed of creativity may choose to sprout. I've seen situations all through life where we must make tradeoffs, where we can't have everything. Taking more of one desirable trait diminishes another, and we have to find the best blend. The worlds of programming and engineering are packed with this irony. The world of art has many such situations as well.

 

So plan as best you can, create by every means possible, and pray as often as you're able for guidance to strike the best balance. While supposed creativity needn't be an excuse for impatience and sloppiness, obsessive organization should not be allowed to overwhelm creative ideas. Unless you're working to a hard deadline, make time to wander off the path to explore an interesting curiosity.

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16 minutes ago, Wes B said:

So, while outlining and other planning may be best practices in many situations, we may sometimes need to explore other paths, where that seed of creativity may choose to sprout.

 

Absolutely.

 

The thing to remember is that just because you have planned out your story doesn't mean it has to BE the story you write. Mine changed a little while I wrote the first draft - I put one or two extra minor characters in and two new scenes. All of which added to the story.

 

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I don't even do outlines. I just straight-up get an idea from the Lord for a story, write what I can, and then come back to it periodically once I get some more information or have something to add. And I don't even know if it's good or not. Lol!

But keep writing, and keep praying as to where you need you need to go with your story. I'm sure that you'll do well! 😄

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1 hour ago, Shamrock said:

 

Absolutely.

 

The thing to remember is that just because you have planned out your story doesn't mean it has to BE the story you write. Mine changed a little while I wrote the first draft - I put one or two extra minor characters in and two new scenes. All of which added to the story.

 

That's very true, although i think the problems and complexities might reach beyond that...

 

One aspect of creative thought is to find things that are useful and interesting, and even obvious in retrospect, but which others would not think of, on their own.

 

One place where it's essential that no one sees the "punchline" coming, is where there are actual punchlines. Many comedy writers use a clever method using multiple lists to jog their thinking into unexpected directions, to produce creative outcomes their audiences never see ahead of time. I've used this to great effect, and once you start building your lists, you never throw them out; you simply expand them and use them over and over.

 

Alternately, if you've ever been in a successful brainstorming session, where people build ideas off of those from other people, it's those unexpected ideas coming from others that bring the new ideas. A good facilitator prevents the group's focus from narrowing down away from the broader focus that brings out the Big Ideas.

 

While outlines can be critically important, they do the exact opposite, by forcing our focus into a specific direction. As you said, you may have added scenes or minor characters, but the big decisions were probably already set in place.

 

The trick, perhaps, might be to spend some earlier time just exploring in every direction, perhaps writing some "prototype" pieces, to see where they might lead, before going to the outline, where we start to commit to a basic direction for the work. 

 

In engineering & programming, there's a point where they build the actual project, which is comparable to writing. Before that is the design phase, which is very much like outlining.  (And very much like with writers, there are those who see a lot of the results in their heads early on, and want to jump right in and build before design is complete...)

 

But before the design phase is something we don't see as much of in writing: the Analysis phase. This is where alternate possibilities are compared, prototype code is written, or breadboard circuits are built. For a limited time, options are kept open, until a good, solid direction slowly comes into focus.

 

As writers, we sometimes want to imagine that everything we write is a piece of the final work, once it's cleaned up. It might be useful to start instead with things that are just feasibility studies: explorations that get the creative possibilities flowing. Maybe they can get reused someday, but with us fully ready to set them aside, once we're ready to commit to a solid vision for the work. We might defer the actual outline until that point, and allow as much time beforehand to imagine, explore, and even play our way toward an interesting and creative direction.

Edited by Wes B
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I'm a lifelong Pantser but finally made peace with outlining my chapters first using the Five Commandments of story from the Story Grid. I whipped up a template in Notion which I use as the base and fill it in from there.
image.thumb.png.a39d372a3f06dedd250709ddaec300f7.png
 

This is what it looks like when I fill the chapter in. I start with the Crisis Question, go back to the Inciting Incident, and then work forward from there.

image.thumb.png.479873ec5c410f491de65c49107a57d5.png

 

For a deeper dive, this is where I got all that from to begin with:
https://storygrid.com/5-commandments/

 

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