Friday, November 02, 2012

The Curse-Outlining

In almost thirty years of selling novels I've heard one complaint again and again from my agents (four) and editors (numerous) GORMAN YOU WRITE TERRIBLE OUTLINES. I've tried; I remember Graham Greene lamenting that he felt he'd wasted so many years before learning to outline. Good enough for Graham Greene, Good Enough for Ed Gorman, Cedar Rapids, Ioway. But my outlines continue to be pretty bad. So whenever I see a sensible piece on the subject I read it. This one makes sense to me. (Thanks to fine writer and admirable person Lynn Viehl for the link.)

  Effectively Outlining Your Plot
by Lee Masterson

Have you ever had an idea for a novel, and then just sat down and began writing without knowing exactly where the story was going?

It happens to everyone at some point, but most people begin to realize that the events in your plotline get confused, or forgotten in the the thrill of writing an exciting scene. There are those who continue to write on, regardless, fixing any discrepancies as they work, or (worse!) those who do not check that events are properly tied in place to bring their stories to a satisfying conclusion.

And then there are those writers who believe that creating a plot-outline is tantamount to "destroying the natural creative process". The belief is simple; by writing it out in rough form, you've already told the story, so the creative side of you will not want to write it again.

Whichever type of writer you are, creating a simple, inelegant outline to follow s not the same thing as already writing the story, and it could save you an enormous amount of time and rewriting later.

The purpose of an outline in this case is to be certain that your storyline is not straying too far from the original idea. It is also a useful tool if you need to determine if your idea is big enough to be developed into a novel-length work, and not left as a short story or novella.

Your outline should be a simple reminder that, no matter how many events or characters or situations arise, your main theme will never get lost in the jumble of scenes.

© Copyright Lee Masterson. All rights reserved 

For the rest go here:


Anonymous said...

I just can't outline. I can barely write a synopsis. I warn editors I don't know where the story will go. I place some characters in an initial dilemma and see what happens. That's probably why I've never sold well.

Mathew Paust said...

I'm the same, Richard, and, altho I like the results of my existential conceit, I don't sell worth a damn. I learned to compromise some years back. Now I keep a running file of notes, chapter by chapter with key details. And at some point, when I can no longer see either shore, I do a tiny synopsis of where I envision the story will or should go. It's more a safety net in case I hit a solid wall.

I learned to do this after hitting too many walls about a third of the way into a story. Finally, one day, out of desperation and determination that this time by cracky I was going to push all the way thru, I did my first mini outline. Tremendous relief to know I had it, altho my references to it thereafter were more for comfort than guidance.

BTW, Richard, I'm looking forward to reading An Accidental Novelist, which I bought recently after Ed mentioned it here.

Darryl Fedrick said...

Authors starts writing novel and it takes them somewhere, it happens many times. As you said, wherever they go, the main theme of the story remains the same and based on that we should learn to create an attractive outlines.

Unknown said...

I'm curious where you heard Graham Greene lamenting about learning late to outline. He's one of my favorite writers, and I have a friend who says Greene used to write what were essentially treatments -- detailed 90-page outlines -- of his novels. I'm curious if you know where I could find more information about that.

Ed Gorman said...

Thomas I'm pretty sure I rad that in his faux autobiography.