Outlining and process

When I was a sophomore in high school, my English teacher taught the process of a detailed outline. A detailed outline is the outline of a document which is detailed down to the sentence level. For research reports, which we were using this method for, each paragraph was in the outline and every piece of data/information you wanted to use was included as well. The text:outline ratio was somewhere around 1.5:1…for an 8 page paper, your outline would be around 5 pages long.

This is a useful technique, and in writing reports for work it’s still the ideal method. Often our outlines are longer than the paper as we collect more information than makes it into the final product. But for fiction, it was unclear to me how this method would be productive.

When I wrote the first draft of Fratricide, I went with my gut as to how long the story was, where it went, and when it started to wind down. Now that I’m considering a rewrite, I’m also considering the best process to use to structure the story and make the events flow. I’m running into two opposed problems: first, the ideas that are coming to me tend to be a combination of very broad thoughts and individual scenes, and more high-level structure seems needed to piece them together. Second, though I’ve outlined the story through the main inciting action, I don’t know how it ends or even what is going to happen, and I have a feeling that I won’t until I start writing again.

As I think about it I do get more ideas, and I’m realizing some worldbuilding needs to be done. There are groups in the story dependent on fictional events which have to be explained…and then on the other end of the importance spectrum I’m trying to figure out how to write in a campus dive bar when my favorite one has been closed.

It may be that I have more outlining to do. I have some ideas for how to keep the plot tight, but there will be a certain point where I have to quit it with the high level and start writing something.


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