Previous Entry Share Next Entry
Talk to me, people.
L'ecrivez
only_more_love
For those writers who outline or do intensive pre-planning, will you tell me what your process is like?  

ETA:  If you're willing to share a sample outline, I'd love to see it. 

Answer anonymously if you want.  Answer even if we're not "friends."  Answer even if you just stumbled across this post and have no idea who I am.  

(And hell yes, I'm spamming today.) *g*

  • 1
I'm actually quite interested in the answers to this too.
I pretty much vomit on the page... other than jotting down snippets of convo or scenes that pop in my head, the idea controls me, not vice versa.

"I pretty much vomit on the page"

Yeah, thanks for that lovely image, space! ;-D

For those writers who outline or do intensive pre-planning...
*happy sigh*
Planning makes me happy.

The way that generally works best for me is writing out a basic outline first of all with as much detail as I have at the time.

Generally as I get further into the outline, I think of things I need to add in earlier; for example, if x is the killer, I should've had him in the background during this section so that he can see event a, and then I'll also add him in here to leave a clue that he had opportunity to kill person y.

It's also good for adding character notes; if I want to introduce person z's secret best friend, I need to drop hints earlier in the story that she exists instead of just springing it on people. (I find it easier to do this part by hand so I can scribble and draw arrows as necessary.)

Once I have the scribble-covered outline, I write it up again, a bit more neatly, and try to break it down into scenes that I want to write. This usually comes out as a short paragraph per 'scene' with as much description as I have at that moment in time.

Example:
- M. is leaving work, flirts openly with S, mentions their meeting at the motel later. As he heads up to his car, he gets a call from his wife(Annie?), claims he's working late. Bumps into janitor as he's leaving. (Passes other people as well - parking attendant?) Wife complains, obvious that he's done this before, but he is unfazed and keeps lying. Hangs up, gets to car, is thinking about S more than wife. Feels faint, falls to ground, sees someone walking over. Recognizes person, starts to speak to him, but passes out.
- B. walks into Jeff. the next morning...

Depending on chapter length, each bullet point paragraph would be about one chapter. (If the scenes are short, sometimes two bullet points per chapter.) With this layout, I usually go through and write a timeline at the sides, just saying Day 1, Day 2 etc. so I know how much time is passing.

After those two outlines (sorry, it's a fairly epic process but I enjoy it), I start to write it but do short chapter outlines first. For example, before the first chapter in a recent story, I had the outline of the next three chapters in my head, especially the starting and stopping points. At chapter 4, I started a new word doc for each of the chapters 4 to 8 and wrote a brief outline to try to work out how fast the action would be happening and also to eliminate unnecessary scenes. I can now also go to these docs to add quotes or lines of narrative that suddenly occur...

Short summary of my long-winded methods:
-General outline with annotations added
-Scene by scene outline with details and timeline.
-Start writing, but have a plan for the few chapters ahead, complete with adjustments and writing/dialogue/POV notes if necessary.

Phew, that was a long post. Sorry if I was rambly, but I hope there was at least something useful there. :)

Edited to fix even more HTML. Oops x2.

Edited at 2008-10-29 08:28 pm (UTC)

*happy sigh*
Planning makes me happy.


HURRAH! I'm not the only one in the bunch! And not planning makes me nervous and crazy. I can't stand not knowing where I'm going in a piece.

This was fascinating (to me anyway) to read as you and I/we don't do it that differently at it's core. From the bullet points to the detailed timeline, you know exactly where you are going and what you will be doing before you ever set hands to keyboard.

Your logic and organizational skills warm my heart, Bert!! :)

I sort of outline. Not anything real formal, but just an attempt to group things together. What I do once I have a general idea is try to break the idea into a few distinct parts. Under those parts I'll list what action or snips of conversation I want to happen there.

For instance, for the Gravedigger fic I just wrote I had the following:

Idea: She's having nightmares re: Gravedigger
   -Booth thinks of past time she's had them
      *First time
          *wanted to make her feel safe
          *just held her
      *Second time
          *She's out of the dream first
          *He wakes up to find her gone?
          *Floor by bed, shaking with suppressed
          tears
          *Laughs shakily - didn't want to wake him
      *This time
          *Waits for her to wake up
          *his own nightmares about not reaching    
          her in time
               -"He didn't need a calendar to
                 tell him; he could feel it."
               -Wonders if she's noticed
                    -She needs to observe
               -"Almost lost her once and he
                 didn't even "have" her yet.
                 Then again, they never had
                 really been just partners
   -Comfort one another
      *"Both knowing it's a promise he'll keep"?

So that's what I do. Of course, sometimes there's things I'll end up losing or changing, but that's generally what I work from. Hope it helps.

Edited at 2008-10-29 08:33 pm (UTC)

Hi! Thanks for answering my question -- and with examples, to boot. *g* It is always so neat to see how different writers approach the process.

Oh Lord, you've asked for it now. I could spend HOURS talking about our prep.

You're sure you really want to know this?? ;)

Okay, when FauxMaven and I plan a story, one as complicated as 'Human Puzzle in a Packing Crate' or our current one 'Firestorm: Gehenna' we plan it out to the nth degree. It's not our fault, we're geeks; we can't help it (we say that we need a 12-step program...!). But we will not change course half way through, it's all there ahead of time. Also, it's going to take me 6 months to write 'Firestorm', like it did with 'Crate', and I'm human and I forget things. If it's not down on virtual paper, I'm toast.

First thing we do is our research. In this case, as Gib had offered to be our guide through the wonderful world of firefighting, she sent papers and photos and investigative info. We held multiple 3-way MSN conversations and I compiled 3 huge 20 or 25 page documents on fires and fire investigations from those conversations and that info.

The next thing we did was storyline it and that's a job that FauxMaven and I share. We'll discuss where we want the story to go, what we want the case to be, what relationship issues will be involved, if any (I'm a sap, there's ALWAYS a relationship component). Then we move onto the real storyline which is a bulleted Word file that break the story down in time. Monday this will happen, Tuesday this will happen. This goes back and forth until we're both happy with it.

I'll post an example of this storyline after this message as I'm blowing the max size of the allowed post... (quel surprise... I warned you!)

After that we make a chapter table. Literally a table in Word that outlines each chapter, the major activity in that chapter, what day and time the activity is, the chapter number and the chapter title (when we've got that) and any details about it (yes....we're such geeks, that even includes smut!).

Only after all that is done, only then do we start to write. For 'Firestorm', we've managed to stay 4 chapters ahead the whole way. I just published Ch. 9, I've just finished Ch. 13. This allows us to go back and review the chapter that is just about to go up just before it does to make sure it jibes with the later chapters. Real authors write the whole book and can make sure it all matches before anyone outside of their writing circle sees it. We don't have that luxury. But a 4 week gap is working very well. This also allows us to fit in an extra one shot (like we'll be doing next week for the week after that) when inspiration strikes...

We write one chapter a week. The previous chapter goes up on Monday then I take the next 4 or 5 days to write the usual 7,000 - 8,000 words and then we go back and forth tweaking over about 4 to 5 versions until we're both happy (Gib gets a go at it too at this point to make sure that I haven't messed up any fire fighting details). Then my husbands gets a last go at it to hopefully catch any residual spelling whoopsies. While this is going on the chapter about to go up is reviewed and then posted and the cycle starts all over again.

I know, I hear you cry -- LSQ needs a life. Sadly, I like this one... ;)

So that's the planning in a nutshell. It took us probably 3 - 4 whole weeks to plan our Firestorm before we were even ready to write and then we had 4 chapters in the can before we even started to post.

But maybe we go too far? I don't know that anyone else is this precise with their pre-prep and planning, but we write a totally different kind of case fic than anyone else I've ever seen either on FF.net or LJ (definitely on LJ...). With the accurate real-life science and the details that we do, there's no other way to do it and do it right in our opinion.

Hope that helps!

And here's an example from Firestorm's storyline (names have been removed in case any of your are actually reading this fic so I don't spoil it for you...):
Monday 3:56 am
• Scene of arsonist setting fire. Body lies at his feet, some description of body. Brief description of fire starting, don’t want to give away how, arsonist makes sure that body catches and fire is well seated, last part of scene is arsonist looking back from across the street and admiring his handiwork. Needs to be some comment about the rush arsonist gets from setting the fire…this sets up future fires.
Monday 10:17 am
• B&B are called to the scene of a fire. A federal building has been set on fire (IRS branch office in D.C…this will give Booth some satisfaction and material for wise cracks…who wouldn’t want to see the IRS burn?). The fire starts in the adjacent building, a family owned ladder company, but spreads to the IRS building and initially it is unclear where the fire started (fire spread via conducted/radiated heat and due to door connecting two sides of the building that is now bricked up). The fire marshal declares the fire ‘suspicious in origin’, that’s destruction of government property and thus an FBI case; FBI is called in. While the fire marshal is on scene and tracking the point of origin, a body is found in the adjacent business and B&B are called specifically due to the incinerated condition of the body.
• B&B arrive at the scene complete with the whole team to look at incinerated corpse. Introduction of Zack’s intent to leave the lab, comments about this being his last case with the team before he goes to start his own lab. They will meet Lauren Gilson, D.C. officer for Fire Protection/Fire Marshal. She will explain her role in the investigation, why they are there, the background of the fire as they know it. She was called into the scene as arson was suspected; found body near point of origin.

etc.etc. This literally goes on for 8 full pages. As I write, I cross off what I've done; it helps keep me organized...

You're sure you really want to know this?? ;)

Haha! Absolutely; I wouldn't have asked if I didn't. :) I love to talk shop.

Thank you very much for taking the time to spell out your process in such detail; I really appreciate it. Your process is very linear, while mine is much less so. I usually have a general sense of where I'm going, and I often have idea files that contain snippets of dialog, plot points I want to include, etc. Much of the "real stuff" happens while I'm writing, though. So I'm not usually flying completely by the seat of my pants, but I do know that some writers -- like you and Bertie -- are MUCH more specific in their planning.

I've been wondering if I might be able to increase my efficiency and create a better final product if I can teach myself to be more of a planner/outliner. I'm not sure yet whether I CAN, but I thought it was worth asking around to see what works for some other folks. :) I'm a big believer in learning from other people.

Thank you again!

I don't plan. I'm the "make up as I go along just knowing a few places where I might stop by along the way" The few times I did plan...well, it didn't turn out well. I too have been asking people though, so I might post as I get more answers. One friend told me this:
The way I plan is I write what is going to happen in a chapter on a note card, one chapter per note card. That way I know what is going to happen but it isn't too overly detailed

Another friend said keep in mind the 5 C's while planning: characters, conflict, complications, climax, and conclusion.

And of course do a lot of what if's. You know how when you come up with something you start going "Oooh, what if this happened?" or whatever? I like to write those down so I can remember.


Edited at 2008-10-29 11:04 pm (UTC)

I haven't been doing it as much lately but sometimes I'll scribble things on paper...I used to write entire drafts on paper because I didn't have regular PC access. Now though I often go through it more in my head before I write.

This is interesting as I never usually plan, but I did plan a bit for my current fic as it seemed to warrant it, but when I started writing I ended up doing it the way I always do, which is have a vague idea where I want to go with something but keep changing my mind as I write LOL.

The only planning ahead I am doing is having lots of docs set up for future chaps and bunging stuff in them when it comes to me.

Stories tend to come to me first of all as snippets of dialogue that I build descriptions and stuff around - which goes a long way to explaining why my fics are light on that kind of stuff *fails*

I think that if I planned in too much detail it would stifle me to be honest, but if I was to write a casefic, obviously that would need planning... which is probably why I've never written one... *looks at Space* Whatever happened to that idea??! *g*

*wants Temper-Space case fic*
*uses kitty icon as motivation*

Haha. Yes, we've discussed our somewhat similar "planning" methods. *g*

Edited at 2008-10-30 12:23 pm (UTC)

well, oneshots are frequently unplanned-vomit-on-the-page sorta deals for me, but on longer stories, i do plan. it's messy messy planning whose primary purpose is to get my head around the thing. in my book, outlining is less about organizing and more about repeatedly revisiting my thoughts until i know what the story is going to be like.

usually goes something like this:

1. sketch/brainstorm/rough idea
2. research various (scientific, social, psychological) aspects
3. repeat 1 and 2, making adjustments where research deems necessary
4. more detailed outlines of various story arcs and where they intersect
5. more detailed research
6. write

of course, 6 can take place anywhere in there. inspiration hits for a scene, whether it's currently planned or not, i write it. then i go back to #1 and figure out where it fits, if anywhere. and if it doesn't fit, but i like where it takes the story, it can all change.

the folder on my computer for Feels Like Home has 87 documents and 48 photos of street fairs and factories (for help visualizing certain scenes). the text files are individual chapters, short outlines of various arcs, backstory on new characters, and research (about explosives, factories, chemical makeup of various kinds of glass, medical conditions, poisons, guns and firing ranges, and the legal system). and then there's the actual detailed "outline"... part basic outline, part drafts of scenes... by the end it was about 15,000 words. so like i said, lots of planning, not so much traditional organization.

the metaphor that comes to mind when i'm writing is that of a campfire. when i'm trying to build it, i stoke the fire wherever the flames are kicking up and have it spread from there, rather than trying to make multiple fires and try to convince them to gather together. it works for me.

certain things i have in mind from the beginning for a casefic, of course, like who the criminal is, what their motive was, red herrings, etc. but one nice thing about keeping things somewhat fluid is that sometimes the readers pick up on things that i didn't originally intend and i can adjust in coming chapters to accentuate or mask certain aspects. (or if the bitchy new character is getting people riled up, i can give her more scenes!)

oh, and i also advocate writing with a bottle of wine, or six pack of beer, or pitcher of margaritas. :) but i have a rule about not posting under the influence. i always read back the next morning to see what kind of insanity i've spewed.

  • 1
?

Log in

No account? Create an account