Tuesday, January 18, 2011

My Writing Process : The Outline


As a part of the What’s your Process Blogfest  held by Shallee,  which I  am participating in,  I chose  to write about my writing process. Starting out as a pantser who had no idea of which direction her story would move in, I have moved on to being a die hard plotter.   

 Nowadays I plot every little detail of my novel. One thing I need to be very clear about is the ending. Because  if  writers have no idea of where they are going with a story, they will never know if  they have reached their destination. A good ending is as important as a powerful beginning.

I am going to talk about how I outline my short stories and books  before I start writing  it. For the short stories (800 to 1000 words) that I pen for the newspapers, I do a one  line outline:  who is the protagonist,  what is his/her conflict and how  it’s  resolved. This  one line  outline  helps me  get a feel of the entire story before I tackle it.

For the longer stories (2500 to 4500 words) that are used in anthologies, I do a one paragraph outline before I sit down to  write the story. This one paragraph outline or the one paragraph  synopsis  has the following things:  the protagonist,  his/her or conflict or goal, the antagonist, or forces against the protagonist, what are the obstacles thrown in the protagonist’s way and how she plans to thwart or overcome them.

For the books  my  initial outline is quite  long, maybe three to four pages ; the protagonist, their current status and what kind of a person  he/she is ( headstrong, reliable, thinker, rash, calm, independent, sentimental ) and which aspect of  their  nature can  get them out of   tight spots and which trait of  theirs can get them into trouble ( this in particular helps me when I am working on the conflict)  the things that perpetually trouble them (another aspect that helps me in creating conflict), their aim in life, the antagonist or forces creating obstacles in their path, the antagonist’s strength and weakness, and how the protagonist  jumps over the  obstacles.

I start with who my protagonist is, what is her world and life, introduce few characters close to the protagonist. Then I add the incident that turns her world upside down; here the antagonist makes the entry and brings in a set of problems that the protagonist has to overcome. Characters on the antagonist’s side are introduced. They increase the tension and intensify the conflict. Characters on the protagonist’s side are also introduced. I write about how these people will assist  the protagonist. Now the protagonist has to choose her path; decide what she/he wants to do. The plan is set into motion. A couple of paragraphs feature the twists and turns in the plot. And then comes the resolution. How things move in the protagonist’s path. This is what I call my Working Outline. Many people call it Pre - Writing  The working outline undergoes several rewrites. With each rewrite I add few details and see the story more fleshed out.  

It’s like I write the entire story (especially the main highlights) in an outline form. As this is not shared with anyone else, it more often than not can go the lengthy route. For my current WIP, just writing down that long outline took several days, but, it brought out the entire story in my mind. After this I start the First Draft.

I have shared my Writing Process. Hope it can be of help to someone. I am waiting to read  everyone’s individual writing process.
               

27 comments:

  1. Wow, I am definitely not as detailed as you when it comes to plotting my stories. I tend to fly by the seat of my pants most of the time ;) Of course I will make notes if something cool occurs to me, as I don't want to forget it. :D

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  2. Oh gosh! An outliner! You guys have some serious skill for that kind of stuff. Plotters. So interesting to see how they do it!

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  3. You are a mega-outliner-- way to go! I'm slowly easing more towards the plotter end of the spectrum, because it gives me so much more clarity. Thanks for sharing your process!

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  4. I, too, am slowly morphing into more of a plotter. I took notes. :) Thank you.

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  5. It's cool to see your writing process, Rachna. Great stuff.

    I always outline because it helps in the acual writing and it helps in the re-writing later. It saves me much pain and heartbreak that I'd go through if I had no outline.

    Jai

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  6. I'm envious that you are able to foresee the plot twists and turns enough to write paragraphs about them! Thank you for sharing Rachna, I found this quite helpful!

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  7. I am amazed at writers who outline. It just seems like such a tedious process. Though I have written my synopsis for the book I'm writing now. I am using it as an outline. It has helped tremendously.

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  8. I've become an outliner too. Well, actually I always outlined, but now that I know the main plot points I have to hit, they've become more intense. I went from a two-page outline on my first novel to a twenty page outline on my most recent one.

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  9. Wow! So my plotting days could be ahead? I'm a total pantser, but I love how detailed you are. Wouldn't it be great to sit down and have most of the book already planned out? Maybe I'll try that one day. Thanks for sharing.

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  10. Hi,

    Nice to meet you.

    A plotter then, and you're in good company. Plotters are in the lead at present in this blogfest. ;)

    best
    F

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  11. That is detailed outlining! I love it.

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  12. You have taken the same journey I have. I was so free-form during my first novel I never knew what was going to happen unless someone asked me; it may be why I never finished it. (I'm going to review the idea - plan and write in February.)
    Now I couldn't plan with more thoroughness. There are definitely two sides to the process debate. I'm like you, I need to know. ;)

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  13. Thanks for sharing your personal process. It sometimes feels like the 'process' is a moving target. My first novel was heavily plotted out. On second, I'm trying to just plot some general high points, and let the rest fill in organically based on character choices. I'm actually liking the second process better. So I'd say I'm in between a plotter and a panster. I simply CANNOT just pants it the whole way. Too stressful!

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  14. I'm a little bit envious of your outlining skills. Sometimes I think it would be nice to have such an insight into where your story is going before you start writing it. I'm at the complete opposite end of the spectrum.

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  15. It's interesting that you began as a pantser, and became a plotter! I'm amazed by pantsers. Your process sounds thorough, and it's cool that by the time you've finished your outline, you have a road map for your story. That way you don't get lost!

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  16. Rachna! I have been a follower for a bit, and just wanted to say hello. I love reading your blog and you have some great tips for how to improve as a writer. I am just starting the challenging writing process and am working on research publications. My next goal though is to start compiling my short stories from my travels around the world. Anyways, thanks for the tips!

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  17. Great process - thank you for sharing :)

    I'm a little bit of a plotter, a little bit of a pantser - I think for the next few books, I'm going to try to go back to the outlining method.

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  18. I think it is interesting that you have moved from pantster to plotter. I always thought the two were incompatible. Thanks for sharing your process.

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  19. WOW! I have been more of a panster but your detailed description of your process may move me to try plotting more. You certainly have a very organized process and I like that. Thanks for the great post.

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  20. Wow, I love your outlining process! For short stories, it seems perfect to name the protagonist, her conflict, and resolution. I never know how to sum up the important points for those. Also, your book outlining seems very helpful. Even though I'm almost done with my novel, this is extremely helpful for me in edits! Thanks for sharing, Rachna :)

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  21. I love what you said about endings being as important as beginnings. I agree for sure, and that is certainly part of what makes me love a book that I'm reading. They're sort of my writing Achilles-heel though. Endings are NOT my forte! Anyway, thanks for sharing. ^_^

    ~Lia

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  22. I started out a pantser and became a bit more of a plotter, too... I start out with a loose outline and then deviate if inspiration strikes in another direction.

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  23. Right now, I'm in between stages. I'd love to be more of a plotter simply because I see the value in doing it that way. I just haven't been able to find a method that doesn't kill my interest in the story. I will try this, though. Thanks! :)

    I wanted to drop in and let you know I've got a giveaway/contest on the blog this month. I'd love to see you!

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  24. Really good post! Thanks Rachna for sharing your process. I'm going to look at this one again!! I'm in-between (like Victoria)!!

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  25. It's interesting to see your process. Glad you shared it with us. May refer back here for tips. I outline, but sometimes haphazardly. :)
    Have a good weekend,
    Karen

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  26. I started out writing without a plan, then I went with an outline. I prefer to know where I'm going with each story, but reading how you outline your novels tells met that I'm not as faithful to outlining as I could be. Usually, I know what's going to happen in the next chapter and write to make that happen, but a detailed outline (which I know might change, of course) is an improvement on my somewhat haphazard method. I didn't participate in this blogfest, but it's been an education seeing what others do to get their stories written.

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  27. Hi Rachna, I'm back from my sick bed now so catching up on the posts and fests.I am impressed how you plot out your stories. I also agree that knoweing the ending is very important as without it a writer can get very lost or trail along many different unnecessary paths trying to find one's destination. :O)

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