Outlining Notes

So here's another little post about my writing project and process. It's what's on my mind, and insofar as tychoish.com is a reflection of that, it's what I'm writing about.

But first, I do so apologize for not being in closer touch with you all these last few days. I've been morris dancing a lot, and unfortunately that doesn't leave a lot of time for writing of various sorts. But I'm in a good place with all of my various commitments and feeling pretty grounded at the moment. Here's hoping this sticks.

I'm trying to get this story laid out to the point where I feel like I can safely write it without having the big super-structural frameworks shift on me when I'm half way up there. I'm sure some writers are better with making those kinds of adjustments, but I know I'm really bad about that, so getting things worked out ahead of time makes the writing easier.

Once upon a time I outlined projects like this by taking a spiral notebook, and on each 2 page spread I'd outline the content of 4-5 scenes which I thought made up a chapter pretty well. I'd include snippets of conversation, and really it was a kind of free writing. The beauty was that I was able to take these ramblings and pull out the critical information "where do the characters need to get by the end of this, and what do they need to have seen on their way."

What this massive longhand aspect of the project did was force me to sit around with the plot and the characters for a long time, so that by the time I got to the actual writing, I had it pretty down pat.

The novella that I'm beginning to edit now was easier, because I was able to sketch it out a number of times on a single sheet of paper, and then transfer those notes to the computer. It also helped that I wrote a synopsis as part of an earlier project years earlier, so the characters had been in my mind for many years, and though the process wasn't as formal, it was similar in terms of all the important parts.

For the current project I've done a couple of series of notes in my day to day notebook (the book I cary around and use for everything from writing and writing, to to do lists, to phone numbers and driving directions), but nothing formal like I used to. I then started a digital notebook in plain text file. It's about 2,600 words at the moment, and the core 1,600 words or so is a first draft of the outline broken down by chapters.

I've been contemplating the next step, because the outline that I have so far is a bit rough. Because there are more characters in this, there are huge chunks of the outline that don't have characters, or details, or even a more specific scene division broken down.

So what I'm doing now is creating a stack of index cards--the paper kind, of course--where each story chunk is on a card. This way I can play with discreet story elements and I can insert points on the outline as I need to. This is hard to pull off on the computer, because I like to outline on paper, and I often feel that notebooks have a very linear structure in the way that I tend to use them. I do know about scrivener, and even a wiki type program might work, but I like the way this is working and the way that I've changed my writing as a result.

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