Sounding Off On the Outline Thing

Chapter Eight was not going well. First, the writer tried to do it from one POV. Then another. She tried putting in a scene about moving, then one about children, then yet another about something she can’t remember right now because it was a totally stupid idea.

Finally she realized her problem. She was stuck. She did not know how to get from point A to point B (or rather, from point G to point H). So, instead of writing, she pondered. And pondered some more. And let her blog go. And let her hair go. And so on.

Then she decided to outline all of the chapters that she had already done. Lined them up, as it were. She determined what was missing in the story. Then she decided to line up her potential next chapters–all of her various beginnings to Chapter Eight–to see what might lend itself to moving the story forward. She came to the conclusion that none of them fit. So she came up with an alternate Chapter Eight. It fits!


Then, to avoid this stuck-syndrome for at least the next couple chapters, she outlined those as well.

**I don’t outline my whole book, mostly because I like to be surprised by what comes up. It’s more fun for me that way. However, I do have a ghostly vision of what I want to accomplish with my story so I generally know what’s gonna happen after a particular scene. But I’m not omniscient and sometimes get stuck. I find the best thing for me to do is to bite the bullet and write a scene ‘treatment’. At least I know what I’m doing for the next 30-or-so pages, right? What do you do when you get stuck on a scene? Or don’t know exactly what happens next?

Llorona What I'm Working On Writing Problems

jenny maloney View All →

Jenny writes dark fiction that her mother hates. Her stories and essays have appeared in Across the Margin, Pantheon, Shimmer, Black Denim Lit, Skive, and others. When she’s not writing her own stuff, she’s reading mysteries for Criminal Element. When she’s not writing fiction or reviews, she’s writing/directing/performing/designing plays at Springs Ensemble Theatre.

6 Comments Leave a comment

  1. I start with a list of all the high and low points I want to hit between “Once upon an time” and “they lived (or not) happily (or not) ever after.” But, like you, I do like to let the characters and situations play out and surprise me.

    And getting stuck leads to just what you did. Back to the list and figure out what's working and what isn't and what should come next.

    Can't wait to see what you're cooking up.

  2. I pretty much do what you do, and my hair does not look nice like yours when I let it go.

    I outline, but when I get stuck like you did, I know something's wrong. Then it's like chili: let it simmer, and the right flavors will emerge. Or something like that.

    And I want to read what you come up with, too.

  3. I have nothing to say right now on plot development or mapping. But I think the idea of writing about yourself in the 3rd person is brilliant! I've just decided if I ever do a memoir or even try to decide what to say about myself in a pitch, I'll start in third person. An absolutely wonderful idea (and I'm on my 2nd glass of wine tonight which makes things very clear all the sudden). Anyway, Good luck!

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