Story Outlining Woes

Outlining Woes

Since becoming a writer, I feel like I’m continually on the search for the perfect method of outlining and planning my story.  No single method seems to work for very long.  It’s not a problem with the methods themselves; they’re all perfectly sound, actually, and by doing just a little research I see tons of people they have helped.

But no single method has worked for me.  At least not for the duration of more than one project.  For a while I liked the Key Scene Method, where I wrote down a list of ten to twenty key scenes for the story, depending on how long it was.  That worked for a couple short stories, notably Dead Girl Walking and Abraca-WTF: A Useless Witch.

Then I found the Three Act method, which worked for one novel.  That method involves taking each act and jotting down key scenes in order with an emphasis on pacing and tension build up with twists and downward plummets at the end of acts one and two, and then having the big climax and afterward in act three.  Again, a really sound method and it worked wonderfully for one novel, but the next novel I used it on went down the drain and ended up more tangled than anything.

It’s been an annoying and ever evolving journey for my writing to reinvent the wheel for each story.  Why is this happening to me?  I’ve asked that question a lot.  I’ve been writing stories for twenty years at this point, and I feel like I’m still stuck in newbie mode, fumbling in the dark hoping to stumble over the Gold Pen of Truth that will help me plan my story efficiently, but still leave room for growth, but will still keep me on track and away from murky plot holes.

I’m pretty sure such a Pen doesn’t exist, but I still kinda hope it does.  With my current project I’ve taken a new route with the outline.  I just opened a notebook and did a stream of consciousness play-by-play talking about the main story thread from beginning to end.  That flowed out pretty well, actually.  It doesn’t account for much but a handful of major scenes or any of the subplots, but so far it’s been working in that I can glance over it and the next parts have been coming together okay.  Keeping my fingers crossed, though.

It probably helps, too, that I already know these characters well.  I’m not sure how well this method will hold up against a brand new story.  That will be yet another experiment to conduct, I suppose.

Which is a good thing, now that I think about it.  Everyone writes differently, and every book probably won’t fit the same mold as the one you wrote before it.  One thing’s for sure, being a continual student of writing has been a messy adventure.  I’ve learned far more from my failures than my successes.  Maybe it’s a mix of everything I’ve tried before that will eventually give me a semi-reliable method of outlining that will work for at least a handful of projects.

A writer can dream.

Other Resources:

Dead Girl Walking

Abraca-WTF: A Useless Witch

Suffering for Happiness: Keeping Characters Interesting


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