Outlines and Plot Points

Whenever I write, I just write. Usually, I had an idea weeks, months, or even years ago, and one day I simply acted on it. It took me where it did, I maybe finished it, and then that’s that.

The idea of creating an outline, plot a course through a story, it bothered me. I find it hard to concentrate on one thing alone as it is. I also find it hard to tell a story quickly through a few quick notes. Because in my head, I’m telling the entire story at this point (just in fast forward). So, when it comes to then writing it all out, I feel like I’ve done so already. And I hate repeating myself. It also kinda-sorta took away the magic of the process. Having a plan. Me. Right. Having a course, a thread to follow. Me. Right. I don’t need that shit.

Very bad attitude to go into the writing process.

And as result, my writing career is as successful as attempt to summon great Cthulhu. One day, though, one day …Iä Iä …

While I still believe that a story will take me where it may, and that I won’t really ever plot through an entire storyline completely, I wanted to try it out. Give it a chance. Make it happen, the magic of taking away the magic.

The reason for this change of heart was reading Chuck Wendig’s The Kick Ass Writer. In his writing-advice-but-not-quite-advice book, he gives a full set of tips and tricks, opinions and ideas about the process of writing, editing, publishing and social networking. He’s not really telling us what to do in detail, or how to do it with lots of examples and ramble-blah-blah. But instead, he tells us why it’s important to consider these things in 25 quick paragraphs per topic. It’s also quite funny.
He talks about outlining and plotting as something not for everyone. Agreed. But he’s also talking about how it can help getting an overview. Keeping a thought together. Stripping away complexity of the narrative to simple, easy to follow step-by-step instructions of how to put a story together. Suddenly, I felt less overwhelmed by the idea to “pre” tell my story. It’s like zooming out on google maps from street view. I think he made that comparison, too. Street view is the narrative. The story. The novel. The book. The movie, whatever. Zoom out to the map. Zoom out even further. Go from right-in-the-action to let-us-see-what-else. See the whole picture. Plan a route through the thing. Get an idea where to turn. Where to twist. Where to crash and engulf the car in a fireball and crash into …something like that.

Anyways, so I wanted to try it.

This morning, I did. I had about twenty minutes before I needed to get ready. I took the “Eternal Night” story and worked with that.
First, I plotted out the existing part. Worked well. Material was already written. Added even a few extras to edit in later.
Then, part deux. I outline a quick scene that I had in my head already. Since I’m using three different vantage points and narrators, I started each bulletin with the name of the narrating character of that scene. Then I wrote in quick, sharp words what it’s happening. Next bulletin, new name, next step in narrative. Fuck, it worked. I finished the second part and started the outline for the third. Went to work ten minutes later.

At work, tough, is where the magic came back. While I’m slaving away, I kept thinking about what I wrote. I only wrote little sentences. Quick. Crude. To-the-point. (Like that). And so on. But in my head, the entire scene unfolded like an overstuffed burrito. All the goodness and juiciness spread all over my hands, my mouth, my lap. God, it was delicious. It started to get really weird when I couldn’t wait to catch a break from work and read this scene again.

Then it hit me. This scene WAS NOT written. Yet, it felt like I already did it. I saw the lines in my head, felt the text flowing over my tongue. All day I  worked on the second part in my head, letting the few bullet points sink in and do their work. Amazing. And instead of feeling overwhelmed as I usually do when I feel like I’m repeating myself, I now can’t wait to write it all out as it is written in my head.

While before, I would think about a scene for ever and ever, but only few key moments of it. Now that these key moments are already written down and marked off, I instead think of the actual scenes. The in-betweens. The acts. The sights. The dialogue.

So, to all you writers out there still trying to figure out your footing in this whole writing thing: Try it out. Outline. Plan. One scene at a time. Outline the scene. Go in there, fully prepared. Outline the first part of the scene. The second. Third. Let it sink in.
Again, some people don’t like and never will. Watched a thing with Stephen King talking. He said, he never plots. But, turns out, yours truly should have given it a try years ago. You’d be reading this in my 10th how-to book about writing, instead of this blog.

Maybe it do wonders for you, too.

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