Sunday, December 13, 2009

Break Out Of Beginning Tizzy

I have written a number of posts about outlining and various other writing craft posts that don't seem to be about procrastination but can get you over the hump of the dreaded beginning.

On this co-blog 
I post on Tuesdays.

You can start with these posts and follow the links in the post back along this discussion subject and forward with each Tuesday.

Or here:

Or here:

There are writers who "should" not "outline". 

Academic training can ruin your native ability to "outline" for the purposes of fiction because the process and the resulting document called an "outline" for a novel are totally different from the necessary "outline" for a paper.

To break out of the Beginning Tizzy, I would suggest the following.

1) name your protagonist
2) name your antagonist
3) do NOT write character sketches or biographies for them; make it up as you go along, and conform it in rewrite so it makes logical sense.  Do not attempt logical sense in outline level.
4) Find the moment when the protagonist and antagonist first come into conflict.  That is parag 1 of your novel.
5) Determine the "ending" (just determine success or failure -- NOT in detail about what happens and how).  Just determine who wins in the end, who prevails.  The rest you can make up as you go along.  The one who prevails is the protag.
6) Determine the Middle.  If the ending is success, winning, Happily Ever After, the middle is the low-point of the protag's life, the worst thing that can possibly happen to that person.  If the ending is failure, the middle is the best moment of the protag's life.
7) With those guideposts in place, start drafting, and just TELL THE  STORY, and nevermind everything else because you'll do that on second draft.

Knowing and doing aren't the same thing.  If you are one of those few writers who should not outline, and that is evident because you crash and burn on even beginning an outline, then do try this method by using the following procedure.

OUTLINE is done in your head -- very little writing it down because it's not for anyone but you.  Do not go get a notebook, do not use pieces of paper, do not organize your ideas under headings.  Once you've broken the barrier of The Beginning, you may want to use 3X5 cards, or screenwriting software with "cards view" open, but if you are crashing on the beginning, you probably should avoid even cards. 

The best way for these special writers to do it is to open and name a word processor file, write the title and byline at the top.

Then paste in those 7 steps I listed above into the file.  Space down under each point and type what goes there.  Now go back up to the top and insert your opening line.

You concoct the opening line from the conflict that will be resolved between the two opposing forces, or conflicting forces.

E.G. "I told you already!  When the bullet smacked into the wall beside my head, I knew my number was up!"

Once you have that opening line, you won't be able to stop typing.  When you run out of what comes next, scroll down into your "outline" delete the parts you've done, and look at the next signpost in the plot.  That will tell you what comes next.

You can skip whole scenes and event threads to leap to the next signpost, and as you're writing that point, you can fill in the "outline" as you think of things that come in the blank spot you skipped over.  Then tomorrow go craft that bridge scene (as per my blog post on scenes).

Remember, write it wrong on purpose, then go back and fix it once you've written THE END.

If this method doesn't work for you, it means you've gotten the opening line wrong.  If you get it right, you can't stop writing.

You may be interested in my Sime~Gen Universe in which I sometimes collaborate with Professor Jean Lorrah.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg (for current available)   (for complete bio-biblio)


Nayuleska said...

That's the best advice for outlining I've seen in a long term. That is me - outline in head, put vague details on paper, but that is it. Otherwise the story doesn't happen and my Muse is extremely grumpy.Thank you for that.

Kimber Li said...


I naturally do it all backwards of the usual way. The story dumps out of my subconscious, I sort it out as best I can in my conscious because I don't have long stretches of time to do that on the computer, and then I 'outline' to sort it all out so it's comprehensible to other human beings.

I just finished sorting out CRUSHED, by the way. It seems I was doing most everything. I just didn't realize it. Until all the connections were made, it all felt fuzzy and frustrating.

Now, I'm going to shelve it for a month. During that time, besides sewing a new blouse, I'll be re-reading all these articles and posts in preparation for the next stage of revision.