There's battle lines being drawn.
Nobody's right if everybody's wrong.
Young people speaking their minds
getting so much resistance from behind

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

To Outline or Not to Outline, that is something

All around neato person, Jeff VanderMeer, a usually seat-of-the-pants kind of writer, has given his take on the benefits of having an outline with a new novel he's writing. He makes an excellent case for them.

I'll reiterate my axiom, "whatever works, baby." Seriously. I remember from high shcool being told that to write a story you need to have an outline, character sketches, research, background, ad nauseum. You don't need all that. Heck, some writers don't make outlines until they're well in the middle of rewrites (as a way to find balance in sections). There are nine and eighty ways to tell tribal lays Rudyard Kipling said. And each and every one of them is right. Do what works for you. But Jeff makes a good case for having one.


Ken McConnell said...

Hey Steve, the link is bad. I think this is what you need to see Jeff's entry: Link

Steve Buchheit said...

Ken, thanks. I did this post really quick at work, so I didn't proof it afterward (also, I had a couple of errors with the HTML tags and Blogger, so I dubbed myself up). Thanks.

Jim Wright said...

Steve, see if you outlined your posts you'd have better luck with the links. Just saying. Yuk Yuk..

Personally, I find that I need a basic outline before I start writing. This helps me focus on the story, understand the overall concept and plot, and keeps me on track when I actually start writing (otherwise I tend to wander off plot).

Also when a new idea shows up on my back porch, like some grubby mutt, I usually do a quick one-page outline and file it in in my idea bin for later use. I may think about the idea while working on something else, if a refinement or plot point occurs to me, I open the idea bin and add to the outline. Usually by the time I get around to working on the story - I've got a fully developed outline.

I also keep a file of characters. And one for technologies. And one for worlds. I think about these things while I'm working in the woodshop for example, and later I put it in the appropriate file.

Steve Buchheit said...

Hey Jim, yeah, process process process. I find that I don't use much of anything for short stories, but I am finding that having all my notes written down for th enovel, including a really rough outline certainly has helped me put it all together. Of course, now I need to finish writing the thing (I have a feeling, unless something changes in my life, it's going to be a long process).

Jim Wright said...

Steve, did you every read Nova
by Sam Delany? There's a character, Katin Crawford, who talks about writing a novel. Talks about it constantly, he outlines and takes notes a hundred times a day. He's got thousands of notes on plot, characters, places, descriptions, politics, and every other conceivable thing. Late in the story he says something along the lines of "I'm this close to coming up with an idea for my novel," and you realize that he's more interested in the process than the actually writing - and he probably will never actually write the dammed thing.

Sometimes I think I might be Katin Crawford. Sigh.

BTW, if you haven't read Nova, you really, really should. It's incredible - and Delany wrote it at 25, the bastard.

Steve Buchheit said...

Jim, oh yeah, I get that feeling all the time.

That's one of the reasons I write short stories as well. Because I get those finished and out. It's the time thing.

I don't have Nova, but I have Dhalgren sitting on my new shelves just waiting to be read.

Jim Wright said...

I don't like Dhalgren nearly as much as Nova. Nova is pure space opera, with images and style only Delany could have pulled off.

Camille Alexa said...

glance at Janni Lee Simner's posts about novel-writing process. Also very interesting.