Thursday, January 21, 2016

The Art Of Writing...It Varies (Part Two: The Outline)

Continuing from my previous post, The Art Of Writing...It Varies (Part One: The Idea), I'm gonna move onto the next step of my writing process: The Outline, also referred to by me as The Notes.

Different writers have different approaches to this part of the process. Some leave out the outlining altogether and write from the heart, completely organic, allowing fate to lead them toward that unknown ending. Others plan out every detail of every scene from beginning to end,

I fall somewhere in between. A centrist. I need a road map to follow but not one so heavy with details that I get bogged down and bored. While I feel that having no outline leaves too much in the breeze, I feel like having too much of one leaves you locked in, with no wiggle room to breathe, and I'm claustrophobic so, bad news.

If writers were classified by a MBTI, then I would be FSCF: Free-range, Semi-Organic, Claustrophobic, Focused.

For materials I use a basic pen and a notebook. Other writers put their notes to discs or flash drives, typing, or recording their words using Dragon Software. (If I did that latter the neighbors would probably call the cops after hearing me talk about killing this person or that, shooting this or that, or blowing up this or that) But it's old school for me.

I start off by expanding on the original Idea, filling up about a page with the basic beginning, middle, and end of the story. (I do this for novels, shorts, and everything in between) At this point I'll have a tentative title, usually generic. I then move on to my Character List: main characters, minor characters, and even an "extra" or two if they play some roll in the story. I'll then expand on each ones' bio, from their birth to death, traits, and motivations for doing what they do and don't.

Once the  Character List is set, I move on to the Setting. Depending on the story, this could be textual, map sketches, or a combination thereof. Since I used Let Nature Decide in my last post for an example, I'll stick with it for this one.
For this story I needed an isolated place that the characters couldn't readily escape from. I decided on an underground compound (the original title of the novel was Compound) set beneath a mountain with the outdoor environment plagued by nuclear fallout, war, and crime.

I jotted down the compound's history, starting with its creation and the reason it was created, and every incident that'd happened within its walls since. I then sketched out map of the compound--more for me than for the readers--to keep track of details. Both my sketches and my penmanship resemble drunk chicken scratch that very few people can decipher: praise The Creator for computers.

Now, if I was working on something where actual world building was needed, such as an epic fantasy or space opera, the notes and sketches would be more extensive, detailing each world, nation, or faction's histories and their relationship to each other.

For The Sunjack Trilogy, which is sci-fi, I have two 5-subject notebooks dedicated to the entire trilogy, with half of just one containing the notes for The Vatters of Klon alone.
With this I consider the Setting complete and I move on to the The Story. Here I take the one page synopsis I wrote in the beginning and stretch it out, beginning to end, adding details to every major scene, but not too much. Remember I'm FSCF, I don't need to know every step of the story, or how I'm gonna get to each scene. Knowing that I will get to each somehow, someway is enough for me and half the fun of writing (for me) is the surprise I get when my own story throws me a twist .

It's during this part of the process that I invest the majority of  creativity into the overall project; The Idea is fleshed out, the scenes are fleshed out, the characters' actions "come to life", events begin to unfold, and before I know it I have the makings of a pretty awesome story. (my opinion)

The size of The Story varies with each project. For Let Nature Decide, it was about two pages. For Vatters of Klon, about thirty, for Children of The Forgotten, fifty, for a short story, maybe one page, maybe three. The bottom line is, however much it takes, I put it all down and go from there.

The last thing I do with an Outline is add a Miscellany Notes Section, if explicable. Here I detail things like calendars, if different from real world, and monetary systems (including exchange rates), religions, special events, languages, ANYTHING that didn't fit into one of the other categories,

With all that done, there's nothing left to do for me but write and transform it all into a cohesive, commercially viable story fit for consumption.

I'll talk about what I do for that process in my next post: The Writing

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