On Writing A New Outline

Over the last two weeks I’ve been working on and off on a plot outline. For the past week, the work has been mainly off; it’s been a week of deadlines at the office, though there has been progress over the last two days, if only to clear my head.

The germ of the idea, a piece of nonsense of the sort that I’m prone to make, had come to me a few days before I started on the outline.  I went from thinking it was pointless, little more than a joke, to seeing some potential, to finding the really cool things that could be done with it, to discovering the story locked away within that germ.

I started writing the outline week before last.  I pulled out the clipboard on the train and wrote out two pages on the morning commute.  In the evening I wrote two more.  These weren’t necessarily connected pages — this is a story with a large cast, and some of the characters are less formed than others — but they pointed at some of the important moments.  The road wasn’t mapped, but I knew some points of interest along the way.

I’m writing this outline in a random, haphazard sort of way, very untypical of myself. Rather than getting hung up on the details, I’m writing down the parts of the story I “see.” I want this scene, I have a rough idea of where it will go, but even though I have no idea how I get there, I’m writing it down so I have it. I have a skeleton of sorts which sketches out, in very broad strokes, the villains’ story so I can see how that develops, and there’s a slightly less detailed page that does the same sort of skeleton for the heroes. And on my clipboard, since I’ve done a fair bit of the writing on the morning and evening train, there’s over a dozen handwritten pages, not at all consistent in style, of the scenes I’ve “seen.”

The Word document I’m writing for this outline is equally odd. I’ve typed up some of those handwritten pages, I’ve typed up things I’ve not written out, and the text of the outline ranges from straight plot description to intensive amounts of dialogue. I have not looked at the document this week — those aforementioned deadlines — and getting the handwritten mess typed up is a plan for this weekend.

This “random” style has a few advantages. The major thing is that I’m not getting hung up on the connective tissue between scenes; in the past, I’ve gotten hung up on how to get from Point A to Point D, and if I couldn’t figure out Point C I’d go do something else. This time I’m writing Points L and J, and sometimes inspiration will hit, like yesterday, and I’ll see what Point G has to be. This is a completely different method than, say, the Merlin outline which was written straight through from beginning to end.

I’m also avoiding any research beyond what I can find with a single Google search, because I can get sucked down into research and never come out again. All I needed was a map because while I had a rough idea where some places were located, I didn’t know exactly. (In other words, this story takes place in a real place.) Would it take fifteen minutes to get someplace, or would it take two days? That’s an important question with serious consequences. 🙂

There is a certain… unexpectedness to the story here.  It’s not the kind of thing I’d normally write, except that it is the kind of thing I would like to read, and since there’s no one that’s written anything like this then I suppose I’ll have to write it myself.

I have seven pages typed, but that has only mapped out a third of the story, and even with the handwritten scrawl (which is very readable, by the way), I still only have about 60%, 65% of the story.

This weekend, I’m going to type up what I have, stitch things together, and see about filling in those gaps. And then I’m going to take another whack at the podcast script.

Thus far, this has been fun. Strange and goofy, but fun. 🙂

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