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How do I prevent outlining from becoming a creativity killer?

Forums Fiction Plotting How do I prevent outlining from becoming a creativity killer?

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  • #136571
    Natalie Cone
    @nataliecone

    As a homeschool mom, I know planning is KEY. I am super organized and really enjoy the planning process. I heart spreadsheets and love making them pretty with multicolor rows, etc. It makes a huge difference in the daily grind, and it’s a real sanity-saver.

    I believe it to be same with storytelling. I enjoy the planning process there, as well. HOWEVER, it has a significant creativity-killing effect on the actual drafting part of things. Drafting is a super fun adventure as a pantser, but pantsing makes a massive mess in the end.

    How do you outline/plan effectively without it putting a cork in the creative flow?

    Peace, Love, and Pickles! ✌
    www.nataliecone.com

    #136607
    Daeus Lamb
    @daeus-lamb

    @nataliecone

    Hey Natalie!

    The crazy thing is, each person is different, so I can’t really give you a one size fits all solution, but I could give a couple suggestions and maybe one will help.

    First, if you don’t mind writing short stories (they’re great practice!) that might be an excellent way to find your groove. You can try full own pantsing, full on plotting, and some plansting, and see what works for you or what you could tweak.

    Some pansters find a strong knowledge of story structure helps them stay on track without needing an outline. For instance, you might have no idea what will happen at your midpoint, but once you refine your story structure senses, you’ll probably know when a midpoint is needed and have a basic idea of how to write a good one.

    Some people only outline their whole novel, but not their individual scenes. Or vice versa. Or they create a basic outline to keep them on track, but allow for plenty of flexibility.

    Some people embrace the messiness of the panster first draft and focus on getting through it FAST. Once that mess is out of the way, they take the gold nuggets, polish them heavily, restructure the parts that sag, and take another swing at it.

    Personally, I would consider myself a light outliner. I outline both my scenes and entire book, but only on a scanty to medium depth. I enjoy the stability, but it still leaves room for some spontaneous creativity. I get my creative satisfaction mainly from my prose–juicy dialogue, beautiful descriptions, setting the tone with pacing and word choice, developing symbols or motifs, etc. I find there’s so much satisfaction here I don’t worry that my outline confines me to a fairly specific story.

    😀
    👕👍
    👖 🐢🐢🐢🐢🐢

    #136610
    Ashley Tegart
    @ashley-tegart

    Hi, Natalie!

    I do pretty extensive outlining and planning before I start drafting (as in, multi-page outlines and synopses after filling part of a notebook with various notes). I’m also not one who finds the rough drafting process very fun; rather, I find it unbelievably stressful (because it’s the most time-consuming stage of the process for me and where I’m most likely to have a “my writing is awful and I’ll never finish a story ever again” crisis). I love outlining, slog through rough drafting, and love revising.

    My issue isn’t so much that outlining makes drafting feel un-creative, but rather I find rough drafting stressful. But here’s my advice for making the rough draft more fun. 🙂

    -I’ve found the creative storytelling process to be more than just plot, character arcs, etc. There’s also the creative process of choosing what words to put on the page, creating atmosphere, developing author voice, and figuring out not just what happens but how it happens. I may write in my outline “Character X talks to character Y and learns Z information”, but part of the fun is also in the details of how the conversation between the two characters flows. (I typed this out then saw the previous comment included something similar!)

    -When I’m doing dishes, in the car, etc and thinking about upcoming scenes in my WIP, I like to listen to music that is very thematic. That helps me reflect more on my upcoming scenes, which makes me more excited to get them on paper.

    -Pen and paper is a life-saver for me. I do most of my brainstorming and outlining on paper. When I’m unmotivated to write a particular scene, I’ll also write it with pen and paper. Finding a nice notebook and pen (I have a fountain pen I love writing with) somehow makes everything more enjoyable for me! 🙂

    I hope this helps, and have fun writing!

    #136628
    Natalie Cone
    @nataliecone

    @ashley-tegart I love your comment so much! It’s so funny to me how differently you feel about the drafting process, and it’s fun to see the different tricks you do to make it more fun for yourself. Regarding brainstorming on paper — Oh, there is something so exquisite about a lovely notebook and just the right pen! I recently found a leather journal with a discounted price. I’ve ALWAYS wanted a journal like this, and it makes my heart so happy!

    Ok, you mentioned thematic music, and I do the same. I MUST know what you like to listen to! I’ve made playlists based on “feels” like suspense, grief, victory, melancholia. Movie scores make brilliant audio landscapes. I’ve found some deeply inspiring songs from Blackmill, Ruelle, Audiomachine, and a ton from Tony Anderson.

    When you are outlining, do you do this digitally? Or maybe using notecards?

    Peace, Love, and Pickles! ✌
    www.nataliecone.com

    #136645
    Ashley Tegart
    @ashley-tegart

    @nataliecone

    That’s awesome you found a nice journal! Yes, a good pen and journal makes all the difference. I love sitting at a coffee shop with a mocha and my pen/notebook! 😃

    For my current WIP the bands I listen to a lot are Project 86 and Red, both Christian rock bands (especially when I’m brainstorming). I don’t always listen to music with lyrics when actually writing, so I do love TV and movie soundtracks! I’ve found music from Star Wars, Avatar the Last Airbender, and Pokémon (of all things!) has been good writing music lately.

    What soundtracks do you like to listen to while writing?

    I do almost all of my outlining with pen and paper. I’ll sketch out a three act plot structure thing (I don’t know what to call it🤣) and make sure I can pinpoint the incident, midpoint, climax, etc. Once I have that ironed out, I’ll write up a chapter-by-chapter outline with a one or two sentence summary of what happens in each chapter. I’ll type those up once they’re written. Next I turn that into a multi-page synopsis, but I almost always type those because they are so long and I like to go back and add details.

    #136660
    Brian Stansell
    @obrian-of-the-surface-world

    @nataliecone
    Hey Natalie!

    I say an Amen! to Daeus (@daeus-lamb) on this one.

    Personally, I would consider myself a light outliner. I outline both my scenes and entire book, but only on a scanty to medium depth. I enjoy the stability, but it still leaves room for some spontaneous creativity. I get my creative satisfaction mainly from my prose–juicy dialogue, beautiful descriptions, setting the tone with pacing and word choice, developing symbols or motifs, etc. I find there’s so much satisfaction here I don’t worry that my outline confines me to a fairly specific story.

    He is right. If you over plan or write an outline that is too dense or detailed, all of your creative energy and the mystery of discovery will be spent on the dry bones of a story, that needs the flesh, blood, muscle, sinews, breaths, sweat, and tears to fully come alive.  These elements should be found in writing the scenes.

    I just wrote a longer post (click here) on this very thing to Khylie (K.M. Small @morreafirebird ), also a fellow short story writer, I might add.  Perhaps you two need to meet.  😉

    Hi, Ashley (@ashley-tegart)!

    Ashley makes a good point too.  Sometimes you need to get away from the blue screen light and grab a notebook and find a setting conducive to thinking.

    Pen and paper is a life-saver for me. I do most of my brainstorming and outlining on paper. When I’m unmotivated to write a particular scene, I’ll also write it with pen and paper. Finding a nice notebook and pen (I have a fountain pen I love writing with) somehow makes everything more enjoyable for me!

    Pen and paper are more visceral instruments to work with.  They cannot be associated with a TV or a source of distraction.  They are focusing and quiet. They don’t ping and beep at you like a microwave oven, or your incessant phone going off to announce yet another attempt to reach you to sell you that all-important pesky car warranty.

    I had a spiral notebook that I carried everywhere with me.  I would get an idea and put a number on the line, then write out the idea.  I put big black, block letters in a Sharpie saying “Brian’s Idea Book” on the cover. I carried it through college. Ate with it and scrawled ideas while sitting at a table by myself in the college cafeteria.  Funny how doing that day-after-day seems to draw a curious crowd. 😁  (Some people are just nosey… Just kidding.)

    Later, I used those collective notes and the numbers to tag a general outline together and found that a great many of them fit into an overarching story.  And because I captured them as they occurred to me, I found I had collected a wealth of ideas to draw from whenever the story seemed to flag or needed a little something to get my MC out of a bind or untangled from a Gordian Knot.

    There are many methods. Just find the one that fits your personal style and preferences.

    Brian Stansell (aka O'Brian of the Surface World)
    I was born in war.
    Fighting from my first breath.

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