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A note about outlining: you should always do it

I feel kind of guilty for calling this an experiment throughout the process. We all kind of knew what was going to happen, I think, and that is that I did better when I outlined! I feel like the real takeaway of this project ends up being which outline worked best, and I’m okay with that! I do think there might be more to the statement above than I grant, including ideas that I expressed earlier in this series of posts, including things like whether or not these outlining methods were truly suited to exactly what it was I was doing; there’s another discussion to be had there.

But on another day. Right now, I’m going to grab a tea and not feel bad when I accidentally let it get cold because I fell asleep. God, this reawoke that love of writing in me, but I’m truly, completely exhausted. Note to self: outline my schedule better so I can meet deadlines!

I cannot stress enough, in my closing words, how important this project was in opening my eyes (again) to the power of outlining. In sheer numbers and my stress levels throughout the past week, I know that outlining is the way to go. Let’s just wait and see if I stick to it!

The Snowflake Method: the follow-up

Read Immortals In Memoriam here.

Okay, so I got much closer to my word goal than I was expecting. And more, this story only took me a solid four hours to complete! Outlining and all! If I’m being fair, the outlining process was much more friendly to the final draft. I basically took each sentence and expanded it into a paragraph until I reached the desired length. Unfortunately, where the other two methods I employed could be turned into the bite-size short stories I presented here, I feel like I didn’t get that impression from the snowflake method. If I want to get a real idea of what this should feel like, I’d need to seriously write out the novel to accompany the outline.

With that being said, I loved it! This was absolutely a joy to write with and I feel as though the final product was fairly good! The style feels fairly rigid, but I didn’t consider it concrete, which helped with the flow of the piece. It felt like a good mixture of going along with the natural direction of the story while giving me an outline. Top of the list for sure!

The Snowflake Method: I get why they call it this, but I think of it as a tree.

I’m not going to lie, as I go into this final set of posts, I’m exhausted. Writing 5000 words and two blog posts every 2500 is tiring, especially to try to do in a week. I hope I’ve saved on of the easier ones for last, but I’m afraid I’ve run out of original ideas for the week. Well, I should rephrase. I’ve run out of original ideas that would get me around 2500 words. So, this one is going to be just a bit shorter. I’m winging it a little more with this one on terms of length.

If you’ve been following, my first two stories ended up tying into each other. The storyteller gives the tale out of order in the universe, but the stories occur in chronological order. So, if you’ve been paying attention, you’d know that the last story is going to be about the immortals: who they are, and how they got there.

This is going to be written with a Snowflake Method. I really like the concept of this. Basically, you start with a single sentence to describe your story. It should be as broad as is necessary and a fairly simple sentence. Next, you break that sentence into however many acts you are putting in your story. I think, in general, that should fall within the three-five range. Next, those sentences get broken up into the next smallest piece. I’ve always thought that chapters would come next, but you might need another breakdown before you get to that point. Then, it gets broken up into scenes, then the scenes get written out, and that should leave you with the whole piece! It sounds super simple and I’m not actually sure if that’s true, but here’s hoping!

Read Immortals In Memoriam here.

Traditional Outlining: the follow-up

Read A Personal Take on the Start of the World here.

I feel as though I’ve messed up somewhere. This story was much easier to write, and I think the product was better, but I think that I’ve also accidentally assigned the story in descending order of how excited I was to write it and then assigned the outline in ascending order of how excited I was to try it. So, I suppose the logical assumption is that this assignment was the middle ground of these, but I don’t believe the levels of which I was excited about something were exactly the same. I don’t think it would matter, ultimately, if my writing (the speed, the quality, etc.) didn’t hinge on my enjoyment of the subject.

In terms of outlining, however, I felt excited going into this. I wrote out the outline in just over an hour, and writing the piece took me around four hours. So, net speed, I came in under the Draft Zero attempt (and I didn’t even give that the required edit, so I’m assuming this was well under the mark), and I enjoyed it much more. All-in-all, plus for the traditional outlining method. It served its purpose.

Traditional Outlining: that thing you learned about in the 8th grade

Okay! My first day of outlining–I’m so excited!

But first, the story. This is more of a whole-world origin than that of a specific god/group of gods. This should include a bit of backstory, reintroducing Migz, Eikthe, and K’thaugz, as well as their predicament. This should chronicle the arrival of the new set of gods, who abandoned their old home when their experiment of creating a functioning society failed. This should lay the basis of the different creatures they create as well as how they go about it. It should be interesting.

I’m going with the “traditional” approach here. This is an extremely common method of outlining–anyone who made it into middle school in America should’ve been exposed to this when learning how to construct an essay. Many will recognize it when I construct it here:

  1. Introduction
    1. Hook
    2. Point
    3. Thesis
  2. Paragraph One
    1. Point one
      1. Quote
    2. Point two
      1. Quote
    3. Point three
      1. Supporting source
  3. Conclusion
    1. Remake thesis

If I’m being frank, the adaptation of this style for the purpose of storytelling feels lazy. It’s a fairly versatile outlining method, for sure, but I feel like it misses nuance because of that. Only time will tell if this is actually going to be a problem. I’m fairly apprehensive of this style because it feels so clinical, but maybe that’s the approach I need after my freewriting mess.

Read A Personal Take on the Start of the World here.

Draft Zero: the follow-up

Read Ballad of Behemoth’s here.

I started Draft Zero with an amount of excitement I haven’t felt in ages. The style is exactly what I was used to, and it felt like returning home. However, as I approached my fourth page of writing, I recognized that I was frustrated with the style. I felt extremely disorganized in my writing and what I remembered as an opportunity to experience the story in the same way a reader would, became dangerously reckless and everything I wrote felt haphazard. By the end of writing, I felt extremely out-of-touch with what I was saying. I cannot believe that there are droves of people who consistently write like this, or that I was a person who actually wrote like this. I love the story I wrote, as a concept, but it’ll take a lot of edits before it becomes the product I would actually like to see. Which is, unfortunate, but as far as learning experiences go, this was significant. I guess I’ll have to wait and see which of the other two styles I like before I give this one another go. I’ll post it whenever that day arrives.

This story took me well over six hours to write. Some of that was stalling, and other parts was me groaning about how bad the product was going to be, but I’m counting it all for the sake of the experiment. I’m looking forward to outlining in my next couple of posts, for sure. If I had to judge, right now, which style was my favorite, I’m positive that this would make the bottom of that list.

Draft Zero: literally just freewriting

In preparation for this post and the following story, I dedicated two hours of my evening to figuring out the names of the characters who were going to appear. This involved finding an appropriate meaning, and then origin, and then linguistic magic to switch voiced consonants into unvoiced consonants and vice versa. And voila! I found names for the god of the past, the god of the present, and the god of the future. Titans turned gods when their world crumbled and died around them. I’m extremely excited about this story.

For the sake of this feeling like an experiment, I’m going to start with a Draft Zero approach. This is essentially just writing everything out, stream-of-consciousness-style writing that just takes one one word at a time. It was described in several of my sources as an outlining style (which I don’t buy into for a second), so I’m giving it the benefit of the doubt and I’ll try it to see how well it goes for me. The difference between this and pantsing (I’m not sure if writers use this as a term–it means something very different if my memory from high school serves me correctly) is that the draft zero is supposed to definitely be a draft–there should never be any indication that this becomes your final product. Writing draft-zero style includes an obligatory clean-up period and rewrite. This should provide a base for me to jump off for the purpose of analyzing how well I feel the different outlining styles suit me.

Read Ballad of Behemoths here.

Implementing Outlining

The purpose behind a myth often lies in the need to explain a natural phenomenon. They, alternatively, can be a discussion of the origin of a certain god, demigod, or notable hero (but often include a reason for why the world is the way it is). Often, these stories are matter-of-fact, meaning that they are neither read nor told like a story, and can be seen as more similar to a historical textbook as opposed to something like a fairy tale. Ideally, I would be emulating this type of story-telling, but I want it to be more fantastic–these are not actual histories, so why should they read like one?

There is more to it, however, than just throwing out a few origin stories over the next week or so. I’ve always been a pantser–someone who flies by the seat of one’s pants while writing (I just learned this term two days ago)–and always thought I would be. Two or three semesters ago, however, I discovered the wonderful trick of outlining because a part of my grade was my outline. That was the best paper I ever turned in and it was incredibly easy to write. Since then, I’ve been convinced of the power of outlining without actually implementing it as often as I should. Out of this is born my next project: the research of outlining a novel.

Now, I’m not going to write a novel for each outlining method for the sake of this project, but there is going to be some experimenting involved. I’m assigning myself the task of creating mythology using three different styles of outlining that appealed to me the most, out of the following list I compiled during my research:

  • The “traditional” list.
    • This can also be referred to as “skeletal” or “structure-plus”
  • Synopsis or a “pure” summary
  • Flashlighting or signposting
  • A visual map or notecarding
  • Snowflake
  • Three-act structure
  • Hero’s Journey
  • Draft Zero
  • Software

I will describe in further detail the three outlining methods I choose in posts proceeding the short story I worked out with them.

Editing and Young Adulthood: Searching for a story and a voice

*This post was first published here*

Anyone who has ever contemplated or began writing has probably experienced the dreaded editing loop at some point in their lives. Except for Stephen King–I’m pretty sure he sold his soul to the devil, which is why he can simultaneously pump ‘em out but also only writes about monsters. Until recently, I definitely felt like I was the only one who had experienced it for so long. I began writing in the 2nd grade; I was one of those kids who really liked books and I felt that writing would be no different.

Photo Credit: Vincent Tanguay

For the first thing I wrote, this was somewhat true. I was only about seven, so of course, I just went with it and didn’t feel like there was anything I could do wrong (sometimes I wish I could be as not-in-my-head as seven-year-old me). Anyway, it was a story about two baby horses who were left behind by their family. For some reason. I can’t quite remember, but I recently told this story to a classmate and she seemed horrified.

Relatable Content:

Anyway, it makes about as much sense to me now as it did to anyone then, I’m sure. All I remember about it was everyone loving it, because who doesn’t love a seven-year-old’s stories? That’s just common decency. I was later asked to read out loud to some of my classmates and I adored that.

That was the last thing I solidly remember writing between the second and fifth grades–I moved in between these three years and it was a hectic time for nine-year-old me. So, I’m going to jump ahead to the part where I’m introduced to the world of fantasy. I can’t remember much about what stand-alone novels I read, but eventually I was brought to Eragon and Lord of the Rings after that. I was hooked. I solidly thought, then and now, if I could make one other person feel the same way these books made me feel, then I’d want to do that for the rest of my life. And so I began writing on a more impressive scale. I started my first full-blown novel when I was only ten.

I never got past the 30th page.

An accurate depiction of the writing process:

Growing up sucks and, for me, the worst part of writing during my transition from tween, to teen, to young adult, to now, was that I had to look back on my work and recognize it for its poor skill. No matter how good I thought the draft was, by my birthday the next year, it had become childish. I remember that the first draft ever revolved around a 16-year-old–I know, so old–and this was largely indicative of the process. Furthermore, to the best of my memory, that same first draft was a simple emulation of Eragon. I don’t recall any originality in that piece–even the characters were named after people I knew in real life.

Yes.

Eventually, my work and school and social obligations would keep me from my writing. At least when I was in the 10-15 years range I was constantly writing, if also constantly editing. As I lost that free time, however, the editing loop became worse. Due to the long spans of time that fell in-between my writing sessions, I felt like I was playing catch-up every time I logged on. If I had an hour to write, I would spend 30 of that reading and editing, and the other 30 staring at the screen, maybe getting out a sentence every five minutes. With this loop, what started as 30 pages went down by two every month and up by one. I think what I recall feeling most frustrated about is that my writing just felt like others’ I liked.

At 17, I jumped at the chance of being enrolled in a pilot program at my school. I’d be allowed 50 minutes every weekday to work only on my writing. Looking back, I feel as though I squandered it, but not once did I not appreciate it. I took the time to really sit down and build my world–something I had never done before. I quickly discovered the joy that I can only imagine J.R.R. Tolkien felt when he painstakingly created conjugations in Elvish. This process helped me so much, as I grew as a person, I quickly became immersed in something I had created. It remains one of the best feelings in the world.

Looking back on my year in that pilot program:

Though I recognize the personal development I went through during this time in my life, it turned out that my process of worldbuilding had become almost as much a crutch as my editing loops had been. As much as I, or you, may adore this process, it’s time to break out. In almost a feverish state, I created a website over the last couple of days. I’m dedicated to writing 15 minutes of personal content every day and I refuse to edit any of it (of course, it will be proceeded by a disclaimer). I hope to find my way out of this hole because, though I’ve very nearly given up hope on this story, I’m too close to these characters to let go just yet. For me, this story will always be Amaranthine.

Click on the picture for the source.