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Topic: Writing From Outlines

How much time do you all spend outlining stories, scripts or novels? Is it an extensive process that you sometimes feel hampers your ability to dive into the story and tell it authentically? Or does it really provide a valuable roadmap?

When it comes to outlining plays–as I’m primarily a playwright–I find sometimes it’s been game-changing and makes the writing process so much easier; other times, I lose interest and move onto another project where I just want to “get them talking” as soon as possible.

I wanted to share an excerpt from a book I’ve been reading on outlining film scripts, titled Write Treatments to Sell.

“Outlines/treatments should feel like pictures rushing together to form a story in which you can see the characters and hear them speak. A treatment should never read like a synopsis, like dull beats of a plot moving forward, trudging toward a predictable outcome. When you’re reading the pages, however simple, the thrill of the story must be captured. And how do you do that? You forget that you’re writing a treatment and tell the story like a classic around-the-campfire cliffhanger–as if every event happened before your very eyes and you can’t wait to share it.”

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Hi Drew,
I’ve been thinking about outlining lately.
My last blog discussed the difference between plotting and pantsing.


I’ve been viewing writing in terms of these two approaches.
:slight_smile:Julie
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I don’t do any outlining. The story just hits my mind and I start writing. If I tried to do an outline, it wouldn’t be worth anything because I never know where my stories are going to go next. In my current WIP, my character has gone to St. Augustine. I had no idea she was going there until her car broke down at the exit for St. Augustine.

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Thank you for sharing! Appreciate it. And I agree–it’s often a mix of both.

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When I draft poems I definitely pants it, and then I suppose I use the first draft becomes an outline.
It goes from a mashup of imagery and concepts to containing theme, complexity and cohesion.
The bones are still there but the feeling is more polished.

The first time I tried to write a script, I filled half a notebook with ideas, characters, staging, and pieces of dialogue, but could never get to the outline or even the page because what I wanted to create was far too… massive. I had just read Angels in America, which probably explains that…

I’d love to revisit that idea sometime. I can see an outline being the first step. To me outlines would work best with a play, because scripts basically are outlines that come fully to life when voiced.

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Yes, they seem absolutely essential with screenplays, tv scripts and sometimes plays. As a playwright, I am getting to the point (and my career) where I need to see if something can feasibly work before committing the millions of hours needed to bring it to life. So I’m trying, like, so hard to embrace outlines. I am finding, though, that there isn’t necessarily a breakthrough in character or plot unless I’m in the world noodling around with them seeing where they can go. But like Julie’s post earlier, perhaps it really is a mix of both.

I can’t imagine outlining poems! That seems like you just need to go where the wind takes you!

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Scripts are more like outlines… but outlines with dialogue, I suppose.
That first draft can function as an outline. :slight_smile:

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Here is a good technique that a screenwriter friend of mine recommended:

https://gointothestory.blcklst.com/screenwriting-tip-index-cards-3c8a303236be

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The only real outlining I’ve ever done is with my Vareima Novels. I had about six months free time stuck at my sister in law’s place working in a coat room. I had about 11 hours to kill between getting the coats and giving them back. So I created a big Fantasy world for about six months before I started writing it. The outlining helped create a very detailed and rich world experience, which might not exist if I hadn’t taken the time to plan it ahead of time…

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Tom, I really appreciate this link. It’s very helpful to see–I think the color coding is essential too to keep track of plots, subplots, etc. I’m bookmarking this page, thank you!

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Well, I think with fantasy, too, and all those moving parts and alternate worlds and realities, it’s pretty important to outline. I guess this just depends on the project? My real problem is I don’t have the emotional understanding of what a character might do just looking at notecards or bullet points. In the moment a lot of times, I can feel that and deeply appreciate being able to navigate a complex world and tough decisions that way.

I can send you a Character Creation PDF. It’s worked wonders for me. I found out things about characters I’ve been writing about for 25 years that I just didn’t know until I filled out the chart.

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That rocks. And I love this:
| I have this table in my kitchen that’s of a certain size that I think is about two hours
The idea of translating length of time to a physical space.
Thank you so much for the link!

That would be great–I’d love to take a look!

Here it is:

http://www.epiguide.com/ep101/writing/charchart.html

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Here it is:

http://www.epiguide.com/ep101/writing/charchart.html

awesome, thanks so much! Do you actually fill this whole thing out? Is it all pertinent? What’s your experience with this?

I’ve done it with John Pentgram and Surela of Valtoor. I found many new character aspects from filling out their profiles. I am currently doing one for Emily Briggs. I found out that she has an aunt in Hollywood, Florida, which is the next destination for Emily after she dies in St. Augustine.
The profile sheets are definitely worth doing, especially if you are writing a long work.

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Appreciate you sending along, thank you!

I just realized that I’ve done an outline of sorts with Blood On The Sand. I needed a timeline to keep track of various events in the novel. I wrote a timeline that works for this purpose. IT starts with my MC in NJ and has everything up until the end. So I guess it’s an outline.

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