Structure and Outlines pt 2

Posted by Derek Chamberlain on Sunday, August 25, 2013 Under: Writing

I have recently starting something that I am calling the Fairy Tale Project (FTP). I am working out the most productive way for me to outline and to write to an outline by doing plot breakdowns of old versions of fairy tales and then rewriting them. I've found it really easy to write using these plot breakdowns. The breakdown is basically a list of plot points, similar to what I was using for the story I was writing in February. In this case, however, I’m seeing which of those plot points are necessary to my retelling of the story. In some cases, too many plot points retards creativity, it feels like a colour-by-numbers exercise. Too few plot points can leave me wondering how the story got from C to F because I’ve left out D and E. 


Once I’ve worked out the best way for me to plot, I’m going to try other things with these stories; things like changing perspectives, changing eras, changing main-character genders; just to see how that affects the story, and as a challenge for myself to help me improve my craft. Using the plot-point system, I have been finding it really easy to get down my target word count every morning on those stories. 


I’m studying business writing at uni and thinking about structure and plotting there and comparing what they are saying to how I usually write essays. It came to me that, really, my essay writing follows a fairly similar practice to the sort of plot-pointing I’m starting to use for my fiction. If I’m writing a long essay, I’ll do a thesis breakdown similar to the plot breakdowns that I’ve been doing for the fairy tales. These are usually just a sentence or two that signify to me what the next point in my argument or discussion is going to be. It’s not as in-depth a structural plan as the one suggested by the tutor of my business writing class, but it’s more of an outline than I used when I started writing academically. 


All of this thinking made me notice that I’ve been making fairly consistent daily word-counts of between one and two thousand words, even though I’m doing several different ‘writing’ projects every day. I’ve got FTP going, I do journaling, I’ve got tutorials, and I’ve got this blog. This isn’t a whole lot compared to what some people are doing, but, it’s more than I’ve been able to do with any sort of consistency at one time before. 


And there’s something else. I’ve been doing all of those projects, getting reasonably decent daily word-counts, and still finding myself with time enough to do things like read, catch up on the YouTube channels I follow, and participate in social media. These are all things that I wasn’t able to do when I was writing that unplotted story, even though my word counts for that story weren’t all that much higher than what I’m doing now. 


With the minimalist plotting I’m doing, I’m able to produce the same number of words in about a third of the time. I’m even able to think about several different things at once, like a blog post, tutorials for two different uni classes, my teaching, and my writing project. When I was working on the pantsed story, I wasn’t able to do anything else but that story, not even read. 


Who’d of thought that plotting would improve my quality of life?


I’m still cautious though. The plot breakdowns that I’m doing for the fairy tales are great, and let me retell those with minimal fuss, but those are stories that have already been written. They already exist. Stories that I create out of my own delusions, though, trying to do plot breakdowns on those… well, that might just prove to be a whole other can of beans. 


When I kept it simple, it worked for the first draft of Oath-Bound. When I started complicating it, beautifying it, it started to be a whole lot less effective, and eventually became a hindrance rather than a help. So, I guess I’m back to KISS when it comes to outlines. 


In : Writing 


Tags: "fairy tale project" plotting outlining structure 
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Meet the scribbler


I'm a writer, editor, indie publisher, and dedicated Magic Spreadsheet user. Originally from Adelaide, Australia, I've been living in Japan since 1995. I've had a life-long interest in writing and in speculative fiction. My first book was published in mid-2014.
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