Monday, March 11, 2013

Speed Up with an Outline


Janet here. Posting in March during SpeedBo scares me spit less. Speedy I’m not. I struggle to free myself from that internal editor claiming squatter rights on my shoulder. For more on shutting up that harpy, see last year’s post here.

In that post, I suggested the easiest way to turn off that internal editor is to feed her substance. For me the meat and potatoes of story are Goals, Motivations and Conflicts and Scene & Sequel. The point of SpeedBo is to get the entire story onto paper as fast as we can without that inner editor stifling our creativity. Still, writing fast won’t get us anywhere if our scenes don’t matter, don’t forward the plot, don’t raise the stakes.  
But more than a huge tendency to revise slows me down. I seem to get lost in the story. So this year in preparation for SpeedBo, I decided to try something different. Using GMC and Scene & Sequel, I wrote a scene by scene outline. This is much more detailed than a synopsis. In this outline I planned as many scenes as I could. I didn’t rack up the number of chapters I’ll need for a 70-75,000 word book. But I had enough solid planning to set my fingers flying on the keyboard. I’m sure I won’t follow the outline exactly, but this technique is helping me write faster and better. To write that outline I used, you guessed it, GMC and S&S.

Here’s the briefest peek at Goal, Motivation and Conflict with apologies to Deb Dixon for skimming the surface.

In a romance both the hero and heroine need a book-length EXTERNAL goal. Something tangible. Something they want so badly that their motivation will keep them working toward their goal for the entire book, even in the face of strong opposition/conflict/trouble.
Both the hero and heroine need a book-length INTERNAL goal. Something intangible. Internal conflict stems from back story. What these people have experienced determines who they are.
We writers decide what those goals are before we write. And make sure the goals put the hero and heroine in conflict. Conflict is story. Embrace conflict. Conflict is our friend.

Here’s the briefest look at Scene and Sequel with apologies to Jim Bickham. Scene and Sequel ensures that we won’t write a bunch of words that are tea scenes and don’t forward the plot and must be deleted later. If the character isn’t pushing toward her book-length goal, her scenes can feel episodic.

1.       In each scene give the point of view character a well-motivated goal.

Decide what the POV character wants in that scene and why. I'm talking about our story people’s goals, not the writer’s. Make sure what s/he wants feeds into the book-length goal. S/he should be working, taking action, toward obtaining this goal all the time.    

2.       In each scene give the point of view character conflict. Either conflict from another character or internal conflict with themselves or conflict from outside story events.
In other words, give the character trouble. Trouble raises the stakes and keeps readers turning pages. At the end of the scene, make things worse. Trouble makes your characters grow and change. Story people aren’t going to change by the end of the book just because you want them to or because they should. Something has to force them to change.

3.       In each scene, at the end, give the point of view character a new decision for action.
By scene's end, whether the point of view character gets his goal or not, things should have gotten worse. When things get worse the character fails. Your character is forced to make a decision for a new action, a new way to obtain the goal. That leads to the next scene you’ll write. Isn’t that nifty? Action is key. The decision and the action s/he decides to take can be shown in the next scene or even a couple of scenes later.
In the outline of each scene, I listed the POV character’s goal, the outcome and new decision. In other words, I write a fleshy, overweight outline. Contradictory I know, but I want a map for the entire scene. This is an example of what I did for one scene in my wip: I gave my heroine’s scene goal: Wheedle information from her opponent in hopes of reaching her story-length goal. The outcome: The information she gets not only dashes her hopes, but what she learns connects the heroine to her opponent, which adds conflict and makes things worse. Her new decision: To build on that connection in hopes her opponent will help obtain her goal.  
I’m guessing talking about outlining a story is making some of you nauseous. Outlining a book to Pansters must be like water boarding or wearing a too-tight girdle. Anyone remember those? LOL Okay, if you’re a Panster, move on to the buffet. We’ll be there soon.
For the rest of us—I hope someone is still with me!—let’s chew on the benefits of outlining.
·       The more we plan, the faster we’ll be able to write. Yes, the outline took time but without the distraction of other craft issues, I got the story down on paper in a matter of days. 

·       An outline doesn’t have to stifle creativity. We can do whatever we want if the urge strikes. An outline helps us see if we’re raising the stakes and reminds us what must happen in each scene. 

·       Like a map, an outline keeps us from meandering off on a path that leads to a dead end. 

·       An outline can help us see if we’re building tension and conflict. An outline makes us look at the bones of our book without our pretty words and sigh-worthy romance distracting us from the plot.  

·       An outline helps us decide how much back story to reveal when. It helps us see if there’s enough twists and turns and what secrets our characters keep. With the basic plan laid out, I found ideas came more quickly.
I had the first three chapters written before I outlined. Always the easiest part of writing the story for me. When I started writing Chapter Four, I copied and pasted the first scene outline into my manuscript and that became my guide to write the scene. Of course all my plans in that outline may not work. Or as I go along, I may think of something better. I’m in charge, so I can do whatever I please, within the limits of my genre and my editor’s preferences. Will I outline every time? That depends on how this goes for the entire book, but so far so good!
How to you prepare for SpeedBo? Do you outline your story before you write? If not, are you tempted? Or just tempted to take a ripe tomato off the buffet and throw it at me? LOL If you don’t plan, how do you keep your head wrapped around your story? Thanks ahead of time for sharing. I love hearing how differently we all write. Viva la difference!  
I’ve brought scones, bagels and hard-boiled eggs, juice and coffee for breakfast. Come back at noon for an array of fruit and salads, the leafy variety but also tuna, chicken, ham and egg salads. Girl Scout cookies for dessert.
Couldn’t resist reminding you that The Bride Wore Spurs releases April 1. You can preorder here.

 

136 comments:

Helen Gray said...

Yes, Janet, I outline. I use a table, with a chapter's worth of scenes per row. Then I copy/paste things around as the story progresses and unforeseen incidents develop.

The coffee pot is set for morning.

Helen

Laurie Logan said...

I use index cards to write down as many scenes I can think of - one per card. Then I shuffle the cards around trying to figure out the best order and in which POV. When I start to write for the day, I pull out the card and it gets me started. I don't always follow the cards in the order I picked or maybe a new scene will pop into my head that works better. But when I sit down, I always have some where to start.

I've read both Scene and Sequel and GMC and I loved your summed up reminder! Thanks for the good post!

Playground Monitor said...

I have sort of an outline. It's a chapter-by-chapter idea of what should happen in that chapter along with scene ideas and in some cases whole sections of dialogue that come to me while I'm typing this up.

For my first book I used a story board -- one of those tri-fold boards like school kids use for projects. I marked it off with the number of chapters I had planned and used sticky notes to outline the story. I had pink ones for the heroine and blue for the hero and orange for anything else. Along the top I had photos of the people I'd patterned my hero and heroine after so I could keep these people in mind at all times. It seemed to work for that book. I have no idea why I've never done it again. *shrugs*

Thanks for the great info, Janet!

Marilyn - who is giving up the ghost and hitting the sack cause she has an early doctor's appointment

Valerie Comer said...

Just about the time my eyes glazed over, you wrote: "I’m guessing talking about outlining a story is making some of you nauseous."

Um. Yup!

I believe heartily in doing GMC ahead of starting to write. I also have a solid idea of the two pivot points that will send the story into acts 2 and 3, and how the story will end. And a list of potential conflicts that might crop up in between.

I write in Scrivener, so the plot points I DO know in advance, I stick on the corkboard and write toward them.

It mostly works. :)

Melissa Jagears said...

I always plot before writing really fast. And the more books I write, the more convoluted my plotting...until this one, I just didn't know the characters well enough I guess, something wasn't sparking, so I had to give up in my convolutedness and just start.

Jenny Blake said...

maybe i can plot which book to read next! my list is too big. have 2 on the go. someone didnt take the book the were reading to the city and had to read a different one (thank goodmess for kindles). finished that one and couldn't start a suspense as thats the book i left home!

Why am i rambling cos I want Janets new book! its not the heatwave thats just addled my brain!

Carol Moncado said...

Plot?

/takes Benadryl for hives/

I'll read this again when I'm more coherent ;).

I don't plot, though usually I have a vague idea of the general direction and where I'll end up, but that's about it.

I'm loving discovering these characters as I go. They're wonderful :).

End of SpeedBo Day 10:
Today: 4122
Total: 50349

[But I also wrote a query letter - or assembled it rather - all the components were mostly done but still got it critted by a couple peeps and once I get the rest of the package ready to email, out it'll go... ;)]

Jackie said...

Hi Janet,
Last week I kept wondering if my scene made sense to the overall story. I've read GMC but not S&S.
I've written main scenes on index cards, but that was as far as I got before March 1. I think maybe I need to take at least an hour today and check each scene to see if it makes sense to the story.

Thanks so much for your post today. I needed it.

Jackie L.

Janet Dean said...

Good morning, Helen! Thanks for the coffee and explaining your method! Isn't it easy to move things around with cut and paste?

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Hi Laurie! I've tried index cards years ago. Maybe it didn't work for me because I wasn't ready for the outline process then. :-) The important thing for us planners is to have a place to start. I've heard that some writers recommend not finishing a scene for that reason.

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Hi Marilyn! Love your Playground Monitor identity. Triggers a lot of memories of when I taught First grade in a small school and teachers were required to supervise the lunchroom and the playground.

Isn't it fun when dialogue pops into our heads! Usually it's the best. Usually. LOL

I've never tried a story board. Maybe because I'm a list maker. I love lists and marking stuff off so a simple chubby outline appeals to me.

Hope you don't have to wait long in the doctor's office!

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Good morning, Valerie! Hope that queasy feeling in your stomach has ebbed! :-) Sounds like you have a solid handle on your method. Love that you said it mostly works. That's how I feel about everything I try. :-) Which just proves that writing a novel isn't easy.

I wonder if anyone writes the complete story without doing GMC?

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Hi Melissa! I would love to live in your brain and experience that convolutedness first hand.:-)

You make a great point about the importance of knowning our characters. I can write the set up, the cute meet before I do but not after that.

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Jenny, Love how you tied your comment into today's topic by saying you're plotting which book to read next. LOL And better yet, that you want to read The Bride Wore Spurs! Bless you!

Janet

Jan Drexler said...

Good morning, Janet!

I'm a planner, and the description of your outline makes me smile!

I spend so much time on the pre-writing, that by the time I've finished, I feel like I've already written the book...and then it's time to delve into the story.

I'm always surprised, though, by the changes that happen along the way once I start writing and get to know the characters better. Sometimes they just take over, and that's okay. I adjust my outline and go on.

Thanks for the breakfast buffet! And I'm looking forward to The Bride Wore Spurs! It releases just in time to celebrate the end of Speedbo :)

kaybee said...

Janet,
Very helpful post. I outline, with a vague idea of GMC, then do a draft and then go back and work on everything else. I have the greatest respect (and curiosity) for people who don't outline. Wow, it must be a whole other world.
Kathy bailey

Janet Dean said...

Hello Carol M! Laughing that my post gave you hives! If all I had was a vague idea of the general direction I was going I'd never arrive. LOL But your method works fabulously for you!!

Congratulations on all those SpeedBo words!!! And getting a query ready to go!!! And still finding time to bake cookies! ;-)

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Good morning, Jackie! Glad my post met your needs. If you find a scene that the POV character isn't working toward his or her goal, you might be able to just tweak the opening and ending and save the scene.

Janet

Rose said...

Janet,

For my Speedbo project, I have a chapter by chapter outline. And like you said, I have deviated from it but at least I know I have something to write about when I set down.

AND that doesn't mean that I haven't added extra scenes either. I rely on my outline but I don't let it confine me.

Jessica Nelson said...

Outline??? LOL

Great tips for the plotters out there. :-) Thanks Janet!

Janet Dean said...

Hi Jan! From the sound of your process you spend even more time planning than I do. Any tips you care to share?

Your experience proves an outline isn't written in concrete. Characters can still surprise us. Events we hadn't planned can demand inclusion. Yay!

Anyone see a pattern with the personalities of plotters and pansters and those in between?

Janet

Audra Harders said...

Oh Janet, I stuck with you all the way, and yes, I remember too tight girdles, LOL!

Outlining is a skill I'm working on. I find I write on whim if I don't have a roadmap to follow. Sometimes that's a good thing, like within a scene to add the unexpected, but if I begin meandering outside my plot, I confuse eveyone--including myself.

Excellent Speedbo post!

Julie Hilton Steele said...

I am printing this out for my Daylight Savings Time addled brain.

I am a panster at heart but have to outline once I get to a certain point.

I am looking forward to the end of Speedbo and reading without guilt! Can't wait for your book.

Peace, Julie

Janet Dean said...

Good morning, Kathy! Writers can be worlds apart in our processes. But both end up with completed novels. Like you, I'd like to crawl into the mind of a total panster. I'm always amazed when I ask my critique partner Shirley Jump a question that her scene triggered and she doesn't know the answer.

Janet

Sandra Leesmith said...

Morning JANET, I LOVE your outline ideas. I;m like LAURIE and use index cards too. For me, an outline is essential and like it did for you, it helps me write faster because I don't have to sit and wait for the creative part to creep out there.

Breakfast bagels are yummy with my chocolate velvet coffee. And I'll be back for some salad. yum

Janet Dean said...

Good morning, Rose! "I rely on my outline but I don't let it confine me." Wow, you said it beautifully! Thanks!!

How are you doing with SpeedBo?

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Hi Jessica! I'm smiling at how sweetly you took your stand on plotting vs. pansting. LOL

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Hi there, Audra! If you remember girdles you remember those bumps under your skirt where hose was attached. Life has changed. LOL

I'm with you, Audra. I'm still working on the skill of writing a strong roadmap. I don't tend to go off track so much as I write tea scenes that don't matter. Sigh.

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Good morning, Julie HS! If not for trying to write faster, I would wait to write that outline too. I know more the further along I go.

Thanks for looking forward to reading The Bride Wore Spurs! You are such a lovely encourager!!

Janet

Jeanne T said...

Janet--I think you and I are cut from the same cloth! Last year, I outlined my story scene by scene, and I wrote 94,000 in 5 1/2 weeks. I was so thrilled. You added some things in that I should have included to make revising easier. But I love outlining! I'm so glad I'm not the only one who does this. ;)

I've been trying to "pants" my way through Speedbo but I'm having lots of trouble picturing my scenes. I think I'm going to need to take some time to plot out a little more of my story and then write like a crazy woman a little later this month. :)

HELEN--your way of preparing sounds like a good one.

Okay, I'm off and running into a busy day. I hope to stop by later today. LOVED THIS POST. ;)

Janet Dean said...

Good morning, Sandra!! Waiting for creativity to make an appearance is like waiting that last month before the baby arrives. And some of them are overdue! Maybe outlining gives me a false sense of being in control of the process.
LOL

See you at lunch!

Janet

Kav said...

Alas, I'm not a planner. :-( I start with a clear two - three scenes in my head and usually a concluding scene but that's it. I do tend to scribble potential scenes, conversations etc. on bits and pieces of paper, grocery lists etc which are brilliant LOL but usually don't end up in the wip because it's too disorganized.

That's why I squealed in delight when I read Laurie Logan's index card idea. That might just work or me. A nice bridge between panster and plotter. :-)

I've jotted down your scene points, Janet and am relieved to say that all my scenes so far (but one) follow that criteria. And guess what? The one that doesn't has been driving me crazy because it's just not working. Now I know why!!!!

Janet, I have your book winging it's way to me in my March Harlequin order. I can't wait to read it.

Janet Dean said...

Hi Jeanne! Oh, if only we were cut from the same cloth!! I can't even imagine writing 94,000 words in 5 1/2 weeks. Your productivity is amazing!! I'm guessing you'll get up to speed once you take time to plan.

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Good morning, Kav! Your delight in Laurie's index idea just proves how much Villagers help all of us here in Seekerville.

I'm thrilled my post gave you a handle on how to fix the scene that's been driving you crazy! You made my day! And it didn't hurt any that The Bride Wore Spurs is in your HQ order. Thank you, Kav!! Hope you enjoy the story!!

Janet

Brandi Boddie said...

Janet, thanks for the tips. I used to write by the seat of my pants, but after a summer of tight deadlines, I learned how helpful and surprisingly freeing having a detailed outline is. Having that structure enabled me to fit in scenes and dialogue instead of spending hours wondering what to do.

DebH said...

i think an outline would help me. i'm good at getting ideas, not so good at fleshing them out. that is probably why i'm not moving forward as well during Speedbo as I'd like (well, that and the toddler... i really need to figure that timeshare thing out...)

Terri said...

Hey Brandi, I used to be a total panster. It kept landing me in a mess! I'm still not as detailed as you and Janet, but I've discovered an outline or long synopsis really helps.

I'm in awe of Jeanne's 94,000 words!

Janet, thanks for taking time to motivate us.

Cindy W. said...

My problem is I started as a plotter in my head and nothing much was transcribed to the computer. This time I just started writing and a wonderful thing happened, a story came out of nowhere and a secondary character showed up and is so hilarious I just have to keep going. She's an elderly lady but we can learn so much from the older and wiser (I say that because I am older and becoming a lot wiser).

Would love your new book Janet.

Smiles & Blessings,
Cindy W.

countrybear52[at]yahoo[dot]com

Janet Dean said...

Hi Brandi! Nothing like tight deadlines to make us look at what will work faster. :-) For some an outline sounds like a prison sentence, but like you, I find a map to guide me freeing.

Janet

Julie Lessman said...

Okay, Janet, for me this post today was almost better than a cup of strong coffee to get me going!!

I am ashamed to say I have never read Dixon's GMC or Dixon's S&S, so your very succinct summation was VERY helpful as I plod through my final book in my latest series. Suddenly I realized that my heroine has no internal goal or at least didn't mention it to me yet -- YIKES!!

As a woman who "used to be" a die-hard pantster (wrote both APMP and APR AND most of APD without any outline OR synopsis), I have since experienced a "Come to Plotter" renewal, but only because my series and characters are so connected that by book 3, I was getting prettttty bloomin' confused and needed some structure.

So like you, I have adapted a mix of the two that I like to call "plotster," because I now write a full-blown, detailed synopsis for my proposal (which I discovered by accident from proposals on my second series reallllly helps me out). Then I draft a scene-by-scene outline, if you will, for about the first 20 scenes or so. I may or may not stick to that, but at least it points me in the right direction and like many of us have commented today, I paste that into my scene when I start to write. By the time I'm so embroiled in the story, I find I don't even look at the scene-by-scene outline anymore, but revert to pure pantster.

I think authors evolve, or at least I know I have, going from that total pantser mentality to one more structured for both speed and sanity.

Great post, Janet -- very helpful for me today, as a matter of fact, so THANK YOU!!

Hugs,
Julie

Janet Dean said...

Good morning, Deb H. Not sure you can orchestrate your time with a toddler. But, with the time you have, you might try a fleshy outline and see if it helps make you more productive.

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Hi Terri! Glad the post helped motivate you during SpeedBo. Maybe not as much as a kick in the pants from Ruthy. ;-) Thanks for taking the time to share!

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Good morning, Cindy! I love older and wiser secondary characters who get their point across with humor. Have a blast with yours!

Appreciate your interest in The Bride Wore Spurs.

Janet

Tina Radcliffe said...

Janet, this is most helpful. Even for those who do not plot this is a great checklist to make sure we have forward momentum in our stories. Because no matter how well you plot, it the story isn't moving forward and the scene doesn't impact your H/H ...WHO CARES??

Spoken from -sigh- experience.

Janet Dean said...

Hi Julie! It blows my mind that you've never read GMC and Scene & Sequel! Obviously you are intuitive when it comes to craft!

Fun to see how your panster process evolved into plotster! At least until you're deep in the story. Thanks for sharing!

I don't know how you keep track of all your characters in your family sagas! But sure relate to needing structure for speed and sanity. Even then I'm a tortoise compared to Jeanne!

Janet


Janet Dean said...

Good morning, Tina! I'm sighing right along with you. Been there, done that. Too often. What's strange is I can see these issues in others scenes, but not always in my own. The reason for that checklist.

Janet

Marianne Barkman said...

Good morning...it must be Monday. I'm having a hard time waking up this morning, even with Helen's coffee and i don't have to deal with Daylight Saving Time cause i'm in Arizona. Still having a hard time believing that, after the last six months we had! i am really enjoying following the posts and comments, and yes, i want Janet's the Bride Wore Spurs! Hope you all have as awesome a day as you are!

Marianne
mitziUNDERSCOREwanhamATyahooDOTcom

Susan Anne Mason said...

Hi Janet,

I am definitely a plotter! I don't always do the whole book at once, but I do plan out the next few scenes and what will happen. Otherwise, I'd just sit and stare at the screen! LOL.

I need to get better at the Scene and Sequel aspect though. Maybe I do it unconsciously!

Love a chance to win your new release (Apr. 1st is coming fast!) The cover is beautiful!

Cheers,
Sue
sbmason at sympatico dot ca

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Janet, what a great post.

I have to plan now.

It makes VINCE happy, if nothing else. Before they pay me for my books, I have to turn in a full proposal with a synopsis... so I can't just hit the ground running.

I have learned to do it, and what a valuable tool it is. Janet, this is an awesome look at how to Plan Your Planning. Great advice.

And I'm all over the food!!! And the coffee!!!!

And I'm grinning at my fellow pantsers because the world might appreciate us... but none of us are to the "Oh, I've got a great story in mind, will you pay me even if I know nothing about it?" phase.

Do you think that phase is REAL?

Probably for Nora.

The brat.

Myra Johnson said...

Oh, boy, Janet, when I saw you were posting about outlines, I nearly ran and hid under the desk! Glad it's working for you, but the whole idea just makes me cringe in terror.

Vince said...

Hi Janet:

This is a very helpful post. I’ve made it the very first entry in my new Scrivener “Writing Aids” Project. This project will make every bit of great writing advice I’ve collected over the years immediately available at the touch of a key -- where and whenever I’m writing.

I love “GMC” and have modeled my Rewards Book after it. However, I can’t find anything on Amazon about “Scene and Sequel” or Jim Bickham. Would you please give us the details on this book? If you link it with GMC, then I must read it.

It makes me nervous to hear you talking about writing faster. Your writing reminds me of Georges Seurat’s masterful Pointillist paintings where each dot of paint is of pure color and applied in patterns to form the most impressive images. You are the one writer, where no matter how fascinating I find the story action, I am still reluctant to turn the page and leave such fine writing behind. (It’s like not wanting Helen of Troy leave the stage because the actress playing her is so beautiful.)

Moral Premise: don’t become Vincent van Gogh unless you are Vincent van Gogh.

I must thank you. After reading your post this morning my mind was filled with pantser quotes. Here's one of them:

“All pantsers will eventually tire of wandering in the wilderness, if they live long enough.”


Have a nice day. ☺☻☺

Vince

P.S. I can’t wait for April first. Until then I’ll keep having these strange images of “The Bride Wore Spurs”. That’s a lot of conflict packed into a four word title.

DebH said...

hi Janet
i am going to attempt some outlining to see if theat DOES help my productivity when the little guy naps or allows me "mama 'puter time".

i'm pretty sure it WILL help. i think i'm a "plotser", as Julie put it.

thanks for the encouragement.

Mary Connealy said...

I a lot of times type out sentences at teh end of my WIP, sort of SCENES I need to write.

Luke knows hidden trail to ranch.
Dare realizes what's wrong with Glynna
Ruthy explains where she learned to track.


Stuff like that. Very minimal. And sometimes I'll forget they are there and I'll see those notes and start deleting them, done, done, done. But sometimes I'll see them and think, "Oh Yeah, I've got that to do."

Have I mentioned I'm not a plotter.

I'm sorry.
I'll try and start.

I do have to turn in a proposal so I have some broad idea. Sort of.

Myra Johnson said...

Vince, here's a link to a Jack (not Jim) Bickham book. Scene & Structure.

Janet Dean said...

Good afternoon, Sue! Thanks for your interest in The Bride Wore Spurs!

Storytellers do seem to have an innate sense of many aspects of craft. I wrote this post because I didn't understand the importance of Scene and Sequel. I had scene goals but they were mine, not the characters so I'd use scenes to show the character, to reveal something I wanted the reader to know, etc. Instead of fleshing out the skeleton of my story, the GMC, and forwarding the plot, I wrote scenes that were episodic. Or worse, pointless. That's where an outline helps me keep my characters going after what's important to them and for very strong reasons.

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Hello Ruthy! I'm grinning at your comment about Vince. I know he believes in writing the ending first or almost first. I'm too linear but whatever works is great. I always seem to rewrite the opening a bit to make my resolution come full circle in what I hope is a satisfying ending.

I'm outright laughing at the idea of telling my editor not to worry, I'll come up with a great story. Nora, I'm not!

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Hi Myra! You know I love you pansters for gagging or cringing! Why? First of all, you're honest. Second, I know I'm not going to mess with your head. That's always a concern for me when I post on craft. I don't have anything down pat. Mercy, pay attention if what I say resonates, but if not, run, hide, eat. Just don't blame me for the extra pounds. LOL

Janet

Jamie Adams said...

Good afternoon Janet!

Outline?? When I think that word a brick wall pops up. I'm taking the course on GMC over at ACFW right now. Well actually I'm c/p the classes 'cause right now I'm doing speedbo - 3k words written this morning.

Tina Pinson said...

Thanks, Janet,

great reminders in your post.

we all need to keep our stories moving. I'm not much for outlines prior to starting a story. But in the midst of a story I will write down a bit of an outline for chapters or for how I what things I want in the story and how I want it to run.

doesn't mean my characters always follow, but I try...


Sherida Stewart said...

Thank you, Janet! For this Speedbo, I did a brief outline which really has helped me achieve my daily goal. However, over the weekend, I saw that there's NOT enough conflict. (In real life, I'm conflict-averse, so my story is that way, too. My characters were being so NICE to each other---a NO, NO for a novel, I know!)

Janet, I appreciate your ideas for an in-depth outline. I've already finished my daily writing goal, so I have the time remaining to hit that outline! CONFLICT!

My Speedbo progress: because I want that accountability--and any PRIZES-- :)

6736 total Speedo words as of today (total 10773 with BIAW from February) I should be at 7000 today because I'm doing 1000/weekday.

Congratulations to all the progress others have made---some AMAZING progress! How do you do that?!? My fingers hurt just thinking about all those words!!!

Thank you, Readers! We hear your encouragement!

Janet Dean said...

Hi Vince! I'm impressed with your organization and technical skills! I'd love to have all these craft tips at the touch of a fingertip.

I apologize for not giving the title of Bickham's book. It's Scene and Structure. You can find the book on Amazon.

Well, now you've said something so nice I'm sending a cyber hug to you. (((YOU)))) Never fear, Vince. Fast for me is still, well, slow.

Love the quote! Thanks for the chuckle!

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Deb H, good for you for being open to trying new approaches. An outline may help keep the story in mind when you do get back to it. Hope it helps! Give the little guy a hug.

Janet

Connie Queen said...

Since I'm finishing an old wip, the first half was already written. I know the ending scenes, which I'm working on now, but the last half of the middle,I have know idea what to add. I'm hoping the more I write the ending chapters, more holes will surface. I know...strange to hope for holes.

I write a generic outline. I know the opening, most of what it takes to get to the ending, and the end. I'll try to write a detailed outline next time w/GMC of every chapter and see if it works better.

This year I'm clearing all old wip off my mind and computer. It's been a long time since I've started a whole new story.

Complete what's in front of me and look forward to new ideas.

Janet Dean said...

Hi Mary! You're doing fine girlfriend! :-) No reason to fix what isn't broken.

Thanks for sharing your tip for staying on track. A "To Do" list at the end of your last scene is a terrific idea for keeping on track for those who get edgy with an outline.

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Thanks bunches, Myra, for catching I'd given Bickham the wrong first name. And for embedding the link. Can you teach me to do that in comments? Please?

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Wow, Jamie!! Congratulations on the 3K today!!! You rock!!

Ignore my post!!! Brick walls aren't good!

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Good afternoon, Tina P! Middles are the easiest to get bogged down in. A great place to outline if you're needing a map.

Smiling that your characters are like me. I want to lead. Probably why an outline works for me. Does that mean I'm a control freak?

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Hi Sherida. Oh, I get wanting to be nice to your characters. Our mothers taught us to play nice in the sandbox. :-)

I think an outline can help us see if we're putting our characters in conflict. If I don't have something in my outline that makes things worse for my POV character at the end of the scene then I know I've failed to add conflict. In the planning stages, I can think about that. Think what would up the conflict. And remember sometimes that conflict is caring about the person who is opposing your goal. It doesn't have to be an external roadblock.

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Good afternoon, Connie! You're determined to finish what you've started. I'm guessing once you've accomplished that you'll never leave another story unfinished.

Hope you find those holes that give a sense of escalating conflict from the beginning through the middle to the end.

Janet

Eva Maria Hamilton said...

Great reminders, Janet!
I've never planned a book out scene by scene. However, I didn't just jump to the buffet :) I love seeing how others write, too :) I start with a lot of brainstorming, then I write out an outline, knowing exactly where and how I want the book to end and I always answer the big arc questions so that my characters and their goals and motivations stay on track. But I've always found that as I write better ideas come along :)

Jamie Adams said...

I can't ignore your post... it was great. Every time the word Outline shows up I'll read it as sketch. With a good thesaurus by my side I might could fool myself into becoming a plotter :)

Connie Queen said...

You got that right, Janet.

I figure if I can finish these 2 wips, I can do ANYTHING!

Only a quitter wouldn't finish her books. Right?

Tina Pinson said...

Control Freak? Are you, Janet? I will not answer whether you are or not nor will I admit that I could very well have controlling tendencies myself.

I prefer people just think I have an easy going calm type nature.

Then I lower the boom. Or perhaps not

;--)

Debby Giusti said...

Janet, you've done a fantastic job condensing GMC and S&S! Excellent! And you make both sound so easy. LOL, for sure.

You mentioned the first three chapters being the easiest for you to write. I'm just the reverse. I spend so much time on those first three because that setup is so important. I want to include a bit about the internal and external conflicts, the faith issues and foreshadow a bit of what's coming as far as the suspense goes. It seems a balancing act at times, and I never was good at juggling. Thus, I spend far too much time on the beginning 50 pages or so. After that the story moves a bit more quickly.

Janet Dean said...

Hi Eva Maria! Thanks for sharing your process! It is fun to see how others write and what ideas we can use from their process. No matter how we get our story on the page, we love those new ideas that pop into our minds. Or perhaps I should say, our characters will have a mind of their own and surprise us. How fun is that!

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Thanks Jamie! Know you'll do what works best for you.

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Love it, Connie! You're no quitter! I've heard that some writers start one first chapter after another, but don't go further. Think how much pain they're missing? LOL Did I say pain? I meant fun.

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Tina P, If I am a control freak, I'm rarely successful. Controlling my characters is probably my best chance at controlling anything. And even there I fail. LOL That doesn't seem fair since I created these people.

Whew, when I think about it, perhaps that's how God must feel about us when we're stubbornly determined to have our own way.

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Hi Debby! I'll write your opening if you'll write my middle. :-)

Seriously, I think the opening is easier for me because things are still pretty surface. I don't have to know my characters inside and out yet. I get caught up in the fun of getting their initial conflict on the page, but then keeping the conflict strong with rising stakes over the entire book is harder. Now that I think about it, you write suspense so your characters' lives are in jeopardy. What better way to raise the stakes??

Janet

Debby Giusti said...

It's a deal, Janet. We'll have an historical opening and then flash to present day for the suspense. Kind of a reverse time travel. LOL!

Debby Giusti said...

Speaking of historicals...

May I segue?

I watched THE BIBLE last night and enjoyed episode two. Anyone else?

Debby Giusti said...

Also the Petit Fours and Hot Tamales blog is having a writing contest each WED in March with an agent as the final round judge. Might be worth checking out!

Lyndee H said...

Per your suggestion, Janet, I've moved on to the buffet. ;)

For this year's Speedbo, I had the first 20,000 written on my WIP so I am connecting what I had before. As far as planning, I write ideas for scenes and staple them in order into a booklet that I refer to as I write. It's one small step better than before when I was strictly pantser. I believe that this will someday morph into an outline method, but that might not happen until I get to book ten.

Janet Dean said...

LOL Debby! Maybe we'll invent a new genre!

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Debby, we're watching The Bible. Missed the first half hour both nights. I'll admit to closing my eyes several times. Lots of violence in the Old Testament.

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Hi Lyndee! Hope you enjoyed the lunch buffet. :-) I'm sensing you are edging oh, so very slowly my way. ;-)

One reason I put my outline in Word is I change little things often. No huge thing yet, but I can revise the outline to actually fit the story. Not sure why that matters. LOL

Janet

Cara Lynn James said...

Janet, I do much better writing out my scene GMC than if I just write what comes into my head. I tend to get lost easily and lose my focus.

Great post!

Vince said...

Hi Myra:

Thanks for the link. Amazon does not have the book for the Kindle but the book is available in the Tulsa library. I should have it soon. Thanks again.

Vince

Debby Giusti said...

Vince, be sure to share your thoughts on the book once you've read it.

Hope you're back to good health!

Sara Ella said...

Hi Janet, your post gave me an epiphany of sorts. I think I will try outlining. I always start strong with great chapters but then wind up at a dead end, which causes me to start over. I am a complete planner in life and am the organization queen (think Monica from Friends but slightly less neurotic). If I'm that way with my home, homeschooling, and other areas why wouldn't I apply it to my writing as well? BTW what are S&S and GMC? I'm a newbie and wasn't sure if those are terms I should know.

May the K9 Spy (and KC Frantzen) said...

Super info (as per your usual) Janet!

I'm a reformed pantster and remembered some of your advice from last year. Trying to implement is another story, but we're working on it.

As I'm on deadline, I'm not doing Speedbo per se, but definitely helps to know we're all out here writing away!

Thanks so much! Another "printer-offer" today!

Myra Johnson said...

Great, Vince!

And whatever my feelings about plotting and outlining, I am totally an advocate of Bickham's (and also his mentor Dwight Swain's) concept of scene and sequel. Once you grasp how the two work together to move the story and characters forward, it's like a light-bulb moment!

Janet Dean said...

Hi Cara! I can identify! Lost without a map. Sometimes even with it.

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Vince, let us know what you think of the Scene and Sequel aspects of Scene and Structure.

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Hi Sara! I think you're exactly right. The way we handle our lives is probably how we'll be most comfortable writing.

S&S stands for Scene and Sequel. I gave a definition in the early part of my post. The scene is the action my character takes in the scene. The sequel is his regrouping and planning his next move. Not long, maybe just in a sentence or two.

GMC stands for Goal, Motivation and Conflict also defined in the post. As a writer I want to know what my characters want and why and what stands in the way of obtaining it. If you have more questions ask. That's why we're here.

Janet

Debby Giusti said...

Hi Sara,
So glad you stopped by Seekerville today. We love to answer questions and chat. Plus, the coffee's always hot, thanks to Helen.

Playground Monitor said...

Debby, I watched the second part. And I agree the OT was terribly violent with all that smiting and such. I thought the whole Moses segment was well done though I kept expecting to see Charleton Heston. *grin* And that ole Moses never quit -- always asking Pharoah, "Let my people go." Churchill must have taken a page from him. :-)

Janet, my Playground Monitor nick came from the website I'm on with four friends -- The Writing Playground. As I'm the oldest (I could have given birth to the other four) I was given the responsibility of keeping them all in line. Hence the nickname. We don't blog every day like we did. They've all sold to Harlequin and after a several year long divorce-induced creative silence, I'm getting back in the writing saddle again.

And don't feel bad about not knowing what GMC is. One of my chaptermates who is a multi-NY Times bestseller thought we were talking about trucks.

Marilyn

Janet Dean said...

Thank you, KC! Your sweet words made my day! I don't have any writing process down pat. But outlining seems to help me.

Hope May is doing well. And you meet your book deadline!

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Well said, Myra! Do you feel S&S enables you to be a panster?

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Marilyn, I'm glad to know you're back in the writing saddle! I love how you came by your nickname! Hope you're keeping those gals in line.

Hugs, Janet

Myra Johnson said...

Actually, Janet, I think keeping S&S in mind does help me think through each scene as I write so I make sure it's going somewhere. Like, "If this happens, how will my characters react, and what action (problem) will it lead to?"

It's the basic idea of action/reaction. Nothing happens without affecting what happens next.

Sara Ella said...

Thanks Debby and Janet. Janet, I looked back at your post after I sent my comment and realized you did define those for me. Sorry I didn't connect it before. All I can say is that my 9 month old makes me so exhausted that my brain doesn't always work properly.

2 questions for anyone who wants to answer:

1) how do you balance writing and motherhood? I also homeschool. I get up at 5am to write everyday but end up feeling like a zombie most of the time. How do you keep your sanity?

2) I've received many a suggestion that I join a writer's critique group as well as aim to attend ACFW in the fall. I live in a fairly rural area. Is there an online/virtual writers group out there I could join? Also, is there such a thing as finding other conference attendees to room with to cut down on hotel cost?
Thanks for taking time to answer my questions, seekers:) Praying for you all!


Carol Moncado said...

Saturday all four of my kids were whining and sniping. It was starting to get loud.

I turned on /Liam Neeson Aslan Voice/ The Bible/end Liam Neeson/

By the time the Scottish Noah started talking, they were still and sat, completely enthralled for about an hour of it. We'll watch the rest of that one and last night's this week.

Debra E. Marvin said...

Janet, I was just mentioning those girdle with garter things today. Oy vay.
Fish net stockings?

And yes I definitely prepare as extensive of a plot outline as I can before starting a project. I don't see it as stopping my creativity but releasing it.

Picture a water clock. Things flow better when everything is synchronized.
Don't you plotters all find that your characters still take control and surprise you anyway?

Happy Speedbo-even-when-you-lost an hour Monday.

Missy Tippens said...

Hi, everyone! I was out of town over the weekend and am glad to be home, back to Speedbo!

Janet, this is an excellent post! I tend to do this. Only I do a chapter or two at a time. I do it as I go. It still makes writing the chapters go more quickly.

Missy Tippens said...

My goodness, Carol, you're burning it up on Speedbo!! You've almost written a whole book! I'm amazed. :)

Elaine Manders said...

Great post and comments. Wish I had time to read them all. I always do a scene outline and follow it about half the time. I had 30,000 to begin with, just finished the 10,000 word mark in Speedbo, with 30,000 projected. I can do that if I write a scene a day, if I stay with the outline which I won't. My characters married in the first chapter but promised to get to know each other before sharing the bedroom. Well, they're getting tired of waiting and I have too many other conflicts to worry about.

Chill N said...

Great post, Janet, and more timely than you can imagine. I've wanted to write this novella for some time. It has percolated so much I thought I could just sit down and write it. And I was. Suddenly I got to what will be Chapter 3 and totally, completely lost interest.

I gave it an afternoon, thinking it might have something to do with sun spots. This morning, I was still bored with it. So guess what I did? I, who am a confirmed 'into the mist' writer, ran off some story forms to fill in (GMC, Scene and Structure). They aren't holding me to anything, just sort-of un-shuffling my thoughts.

I'm looking forward to a productive day tomorrow.

Hoping to read all these comments now! (107 at this moment.)

Nancy C

CatMom said...

Great post, Janet! I outline but in a very general way, so I really appreciate your post today (a definite keeper). ~ Was gone to Kansas over the weekend and away from my computer, so missed being in Seekerville. But now that I'm back I've been baking, so if anyone needs a late-night snack enjoy the Peach muffins I brought. ~ Hugs, Patti Jo p.s. Cannot wait to read your April release (I won it here!). :) PJ

Janet Dean said...

Myra, you think what I write in my outline. Action-Reaction may be easier to remember than scene and sequel.

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Sara, I didn't have young children at home when I started writing nor did I home school. Kudos to you for getting anything writing related done!

My opinion--cut yourself some slack and get the sleep you need to feel good and think clearly. Others here in Seekerville write with babies and preschoolers so ask again tomorrow. I'm sure they'd have good advice. Or you might look in the Archives for a post related to that topic.

If you're a member of ACFW, you can ask to be matched with someone also interested in finding a critique partner. Perhaps one of the Villagers here will be looking for a roommate at the conferences.

Conference workshops and networking are terrific. If you have a completed manuscript you can pitch it to an editor and agent. If you don't, you might consider waiting until you do.

We're all about entering contests for feedback. Romance Writers of America has numerous contests you can enter.

Hope this helps.

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Carol M, terrific idea! You didn't even have to speak. Hope it doesn't get too scary for your kids.

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Debra thanks for the wonderful points on the Pro side of Plotting!

Yes, my characters love nothing better than to mess with an outline. :-)

One less hour of sleep. But it's light longer. Yay!

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Excellent point, Missy! We don't have to write the entire outline before we write. Though that's what I tried to do, I only got about twelve chapters. As you point out, I can outline whatever else I need as I go along.

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Hi Elaine! Love those marriage of convenience stories!

Congratulations on getting words on the page during SpeedBo. You'll soon have a finished book, assuming you and your hero and heroine resolve those conflicts.

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Hi Nancy C! When my story is boring me, I often discover that the conflict needs strengthening. Hope the outline helps get you going again!

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Hi Patti Jo!

Thanks for the peach muffins! Can always count on you to serve up some Georgia sunshine.

I'll get The Bride Wore Spurs in the mail to you and today's winner as soon as I can.

Janet

Walt Mussell said...

I have an outline for my new WIP set in 1870s Portland. It's scene-by-scene, but I don't have the additional umph you've added into each of your scenes. I need to be thinking about that as I write.

Natalie Monk said...

Hi, Janet!

I didn't outline with my false start of my WIP, but wrote 80,000 words going nowhere. lol

You inspired me, however, with your synopsis critique last year, to try plotting. I learned so much! This year I have a loose outline I created by writing separate plot threads and character arcs on index cards, then arranging them and writing them into cells in excel. I've varied a little from my "plot map," but things are pretty much on track so far.

Going to try a scene outline on the next story, because I'm sure there are a couple scenes in the current wip that need stronger POV character goals.

Thanks for sharing these wonderful outlining tips!

CatMom said...

Oh Janet, there is no rush on you mailing your book--I know you are BUSY writing! I was only letting you know I'll be sooo excited to read it *smile*. Hugs, Patti Jo

Gail Kittleson said...

Love your menus, Janet!! And I needed the reminder about each scene needing to give the POV character a new goal.

I find the more I put myself, body and soul, (well maybe not body) into the actual surroundings of the scene, that comes more naturally. So if I'm thinking how the floorboards or curtains look to my POV character, I'm more likely to be thinking about her next step. Or something like that.

anyway, I think I'm supposed to say what I'd like to win, and that would be the 20 pg crit. Thank y'all so much for doing this - I'm about 10,000 words from my goal now.
Onward...into the fray!!!

Gail Kittleson

Janet Dean said...

Hi Walt! Good to see you in Seekerville. Outlines can be revised, too. :-)

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Wow, Natalie, I'm impressed that you're trying different approaches and seeing what works for you, to not only get words on the page but to tell your story.

You can revise those scenes and beef up the character's goals.

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Patti Jo, I'm excited that you're excited to read The Bride Wore Spurs so want to get it to you.

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Hi Gail! Love that you've found a technique that helps you get into your characters' heads. Congratulations on all those words!!!

Janet

VisionWriter said...

Very good post. I outlined my story before Speedbo, but apparently not in enough detail because I keep getting stuck. I used the 3 act and Hero's Journey.

Know of any good books on GMC and Scene & Sequel?

Amber Schamel
Larkspur, CO

Crystal Benedict said...

I'm not a writer unless you count the reviews I've been writing. I just love all the stories you wonderful, talented authors come up with.

MinDaf @ Aol.com

Lisa Jordan said...

I tried writing a novel during NaNoWriMo once without planning ahead. I just wrote whatever came into my head. That novel wanders like a toddler in a toy store. No defined purpose, but lots of messes to wade through.

Since them I've become a planner. I created a chart that lists each chapter and each POV per chapter. Each scene consists of a sentence or two to help me stay focused, but allows for a surprise or two to unfold as I get deeper into the story. This way of writing keeps me focused and I can write more words in less time, instead of wasting time daydreaming about scenes. Now I can have focused daydreaming. :)

Linnette R Mullin said...

Janet, I didn't really get a chance to plan this year. Life has been spinning wildly and I can hardly catch my breath. I'm so far behind on my goal this month, it's overwhelming. I don't think I'm going to do quite as well this year, but only because I can't seem to get enough uninterrupted time to write. That needs to change. I'm just not sure how.

PatriciaW said...

So I officially missed the first 12 days of Speedbo. New job. College visit. Editing gig. Mostly, I'm a late bloomer (read procrastinator).

An outline of some sort works best for me to have confidence in my story, but right now, my focus is simply on writing. As much as I can, as often as I can. So I'll start tonight and see where the story takes me.

Janet Dean said...

Hi Amber,

Jack Bickham's Scene and Structure is a great resource, as is Debra Dixon's Goal, Motivation and Conflict.

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Hi Crystal,

We writers try our best. Thanks for your support!

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Thanks for sharing your process, Lisa! You've found a way to speed up by making your words count.

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Linnette, I think we've all been there. There's no simple answer. Maybe it'll help to be aware of and use snippets of time. That's hard because I seem to need time to "get into" the story. That's why I often read the last scene before I write.

Don't get down on yourself and give up.

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Hi Patricia W,

Love to see your determination to get words on the page! Not easy to start SpeedBo late, but cheering you on!

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Hi Patricia W,

Love to see your determination to get words on the page! Not easy to start SpeedBo late, but cheering you on!

Janet