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To outline or not, that is the question!

wcoyote1958

Okay, before any suggests joining a Writers Group, I live in a cultural waste land. Great for deer hunting, not so good for input on writing.

So the question is, is it better to outline a "story" (hopefully novel length) or not. I just write as I go. That is not what caused me to not finish two of my stories. I am just in a darker place now so it is hard to write anymore of them.

Also any recommendations on books about writing would be helpful. Grammar is a work in progress. HS/College was a LONG time ago. I do the best I can.

Thanks for any assistance.

R. C. Miller writing as Wiley Coyote

Ernest Bywater

there is no sure answer. One style works best for some, and the other style works best for others.

personally, I outline the basics, but often add extras as they come to mind while writing.

Wheezer

@wcoyote1958

So the question is, is it better to outline a "story" (hopefully novel length) or not.


If you don't know where you are going, how will you know when you get there? There's a word for wandering around without a destination - lost. ;)

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
StarFleet Carl

Actually, you have joined a Writers Group already ... this forum.

I have found that the input from others on here has been, for the most part, very helpful. There's obviously a bit of giving each other a ration of crap, but it's sort of like the relationship I have with the guys I work with - if we didn't care about what we do, or each other, we simply wouldn't put forth the effort.

Ernest Bywater

@Wheezer

There's a word for wandering around without a destination - lost. ;)


Another one is - I'm an elected government official.

Switch Blayde

@wcoyote1958

If you can do it, a detailed outline is the best. There will be much less re-writing at the end. However, I can't write that way. I tried it once and the writing was boring.

But even if you don't outline, what you should know up front is:

1. the main characters and their relationships.
2. the plot's conflict (what the protagonist wants/needs and what's in the way).
3. the inciting incident (what sets the conflict in motion).
4. the conflict resolution (plot's climax)

In addition to the above, you should know the setting.

I would highly recommend David Morrell's book on writing, "Lessons from a Lifetime of Writing." I found it in the public library in the 800s. Not only is it a great book on writing, but he goes into the publishing industry and Hollywood. btw, he's the guy who created Rambo in his novel "First Blood."

Ross at Play

@Switch Blayde

I found it in the public library in the 800s.

Listen to the voice of experience. SB's been doing this for over 1,200 years! :)

Replies:   Wheezer
Wheezer

@Ross at Play

Listen to the voice of experience. SB's been doing this for over 1,200 years! :)


Dewey, Dewey, Dewey.... How many times must you be told?
(such a disappointing child...) ;)

Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

Switch's summary is good. In my own case, I've never used an outline, however, I generally have most of the plot laid out mentally before I ever start writing. What I use are 'way points', essentially the points the plot changes, and then I write towards those. I know I have to get to each one, but how I get there (and how many chapters it may take, is completely up in the air). Often, I won't have any clue what the next chapter will be (or even what it'll be called) until I get there.

That said, the essential point is to know the ending before you start writing. If you never know how the story will end, then how will you ever get there. Everything in your story should help propel the story to the end, either in developing the underlying conflict, introducing the players, defining everyone's motivations, escalating the conflict and eventually resolving. The ending of the story is your ultimate guide. If you aren't building towards it, you're wasting your time on piddly details.

However, even that isn't carved in stone. With my six book "Catalyst" series, I knew from the beginning the series would eventually end with the character's death, and rebirth on a new world, but I never knew precisely how he'd die until the I was finished off book five. I figured it would be some kind of car crash, but I didn't know the specifics. Essentially, the details aren't essential. They're important—but it's more important you have the context for them—which often develops over time. But knowing what I was writing to, and the development the characters needed to undergo to get there, guided me in getting there.

We've also discussed endlessly whether it's better to write 'free-form' or complete your entire first draft before posting. I've of the 'finish before posting school', as it allows you to refine and prune guided by where the story ends up.

However, not everyone writes that way, so I'll leave how you write up to you in that regard.

Ernest Bywater
Updated:

There are various types of outlines you can use:

1. start action - series of events - closing actions.

2. Start premis -to be worked out - end premis.

3. Start character or situation - end premis.

Those are the three main ones I use.

Take Odd Man in College - I had the initial situation as the basic outline then worked out how to set it up, then worked out where I wanted it to go, but only in broad directions, then started writing. I through events and my characters and let them deal with them. Not all stories are done that way, but some do.

edit to add: I don't know any writer who has the full outline when they start, but many do have the key plot points and elt their muse loose while typing.

Not_a_ID

@wcoyote1958

So the question is, is it better to outline a "story" (hopefully novel length) or not. I just write as I go. That is not what caused me to not finish two of my stories. I am just in a darker place now so it is hard to write anymore of them.


Depends on a few things. If you're writing a serial that is being released almost as soon as it's written, then an outline is a very strong recommendation. It should help keep things "on track" and greatly reduce the need to rewrite(retcon) something previously released.

If you're going "freeform" and chucking the outline, you'll probably want to complete the story first, edit/revise it down to "a reasonable size" then start releasing it.

Otherwise you're very likely to create a meandering monster for people to try to wade through.

wcoyote1958

Okay, thanks guys. I have an idea at least. If anyone else has recommendations on books or online course, I am at least receptive. Now just have to pound the keys for a while.

REP
Updated:

@wcoyote1958

As others have said, outlines have a purpose and can be very beneficial.

One thing not stated is, while an outline is a guide to your destination, it is not set in concrete. Feel free to revise it so it reflects your current vision of the storyline.

A second thing is all Authors have a vision of how their storyline will evolve and that vision is in essence a mental outline. Some of us work to a mental outline; others create a written outline.

Bondi Beach

@wcoyote1958

Okay, before any suggests joining a Writers Group, I live in a cultural waste land. Great for deer hunting, not so good for input on writing.


Wait a minute. What about the late Jim Harrison? No idea whether he wrote with an outline or not but he was apparently a pretty good hunter and backwoodsman. Maybe other deer hunters would have a view?


So the question is, is it better to outline a "story" (hopefully novel length) or not.


I'd only add that at least know more or less what happens in what order, even if only a list, and even if you label sections by day or time *while you write* and remove before posting, unless essential to help the reader understand the timeline. (Anthony Doerr's All the Light We Cannot See is an excellent example of this.)

Bondi Beach

@wcoyote1958

R. C. Miller writing as Wiley Coyote


Forgot to add, I read your first Succubus story and liked it.

bb

red61544

@wcoyote1958

Read any post in the "Author Hangout". It usually stays on topic for about 4 or 5 posts. Then it wanders so far off topic that no one can determine what the initial post was all about! That's the purpose of an outline. It keeps the author on topic; it points him in one direction and keeps him moving in that direction until he reaches the end. Hmmmm! Maybe we should consider a mandatory outline for forum posts.

sejintenej

Each writer has their own methods* but it strikes me that SB had the best advice. I would remind you of posts not a moon ago about introducing the means of an action immediately before the action rather than at a logical introduction point much earlier. A pre-decided storyline should reduce/avoid such problems.

* My writing was more technical, I had the most unconsidered pre-plan and I usually found near the end that I had omitted a crucial point early on - it helped that nothing went out of my office until the item was finished and re-read and corrected multiple times

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Switch Blayde

@wcoyote1958

If anyone else has recommendations on books


Many people swear by Stephen King's book. I think it's called "On Writing." I can't recommend it because I never read it.

Replies:   Bondi Beach
Bondi Beach

@Switch Blayde

Many people swear by Stephen King's book. I think it's called "On Writing." I can't recommend it because I never read it.


I can recommend it because I have read it.

It's more or less half King's personal (writing) history, including his addictions and intervention, and writing advice. The personal history is very engaging—he's a funny guy and, wait for it, a pretty good writer.

The writing advice is pretty standard but useful nonetheless. It's a good read.

bb

Switch Blayde
Updated:

@wcoyote1958


If anyone else has recommendations on books or online course


Don't forget all the articles on the Internet. Google is your friend. I learned most of what I currently know doing that.

For example, my first novel was rejected with actual feedback — "show don't tell and don't head hop." I had no idea what they meant so I googled them. Reading those articles led me to googling other terms, such as, POV, dialogue, plot, etc. Always add "fiction" or "novel" to the search.

Just be selective of the advice given. Some of it is flat out wrong (in my opinion). I usually look at the source. In order of priority, it's publishers/agents, editors, traditionally published authors, other authors, professors, everyone else.

ETA: Here are some articles to get you started:

show don't tell -
http://www.writing.com/main/view_item/item_id/1250873-Telling-Vs-Showing---Part-1

http://www.aliventures.com/why-show-dont-tell/

head-hopping

http://thewritepractice.com/head-hopping-and-hemingway/

REP

@Switch Blayde

In order of priority, it's

Good advice.

There are a lot of people in that everyone else category and their articles frequently contradict each other. Checkout their credentials, if provided, before you just accept their advice. I've noticed that a large portion of these people are essentially bloggers expressing their personal opinions with no real facts to backup their opinions.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Ernest Bywater

@sejintenej

Each writer has their own methods* but it strikes me that SB had the best advice. I would remind you of posts not a moon ago about introducing the means of an action immediately before the action rather than at a logical introduction point much earlier.


In general, this is a useful device which I've used often. However, you do have to be very careful how you use it, because the worst books I've ever read were where they opened with a great action scene, then followed with a lot of crap to set the background for the rest of the story.

If you need a lot of background, you really have to think about how you're going to insert it into the story, and sometimes it is best to establish the background first. Like all writing, it's a case of horses for courses and you need to pick and choose to suit the story.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer  Not_a_ID
Ernest Bywater

@Switch Blayde

Don't forget all the articles on the Internet. Google is your friend.


But beware of what you read on the Internet, about 80% of what's out there on writing is totally useless for fiction writing. Much of it is a case of people telling you how to write when they can't write a story at all. But there is some great stuff out there, just be careful and think about what they have to say first.

I'll also put a plug in for how to best prepare a story for upload to SoL, and my own advice guide on writing - both are free:

http://storiesonline.net/article/Text-formatting-guide-for-WLPC-Sites

http://www.lulu.com/shop/ernest-bywater/fiction-writing-style-guide/ebook/product-23155351.html

Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

Don't forget all the articles on the Internet. Google is your friend. I learned most of what I currently know doing that.

Don't forget, outlines are mainly left-over remnants of the traditional publishers lock on the writing market years ago. Writers only used outlines because publishers required them before they'd take a chance on a future book.

Since none of us have gone that particular route (with a few minor exceptions), most of us find ourselves swimming in the deep-end of the pool with no swimming lessons. You either learn fast or drown.

That's why we spend so much time wrestling with Styles, because we're under no obligation to stick to one (by a predetermined publisher), but we recognize that consistency is important so readers don't get confused by constantly changing standards.

The key is: since few of us were ever trained as writers, we're all fending for ourselves and commiserating together. There is no one way to write, the right way is whichever way works for you.

What's more, if you ever need advice or to bounce ideas off someone else, we're always here for any and all stupid questions.

Crumbly Writer

@REP

I've noticed that a large portion of these people are essentially bloggers expressing their personal opinions with no real facts to backup their opinions.

What's more, many writing books fit into standard categories: books written by failed writers who basically can't write, so they write about something they essentially don't understand, or they're written by author jealously guarding their turf, so they offer misguiding advice geared towards preventing anyone else from competing with them, with enough generic advice to entice unsuspecting notices.

The few honest and legitimate books, like Stephen King's, are few and far between.

Also, the advice offered here is highly specific, geared to writing largely erotic stories on SOL. There are other more specialized forums, like the LinkedIn Writers' Groups, but they're more geared towards publishing than writing in general. Again, most of the blogs are geared towards writing blogs, rather than fiction.

Replies:   Not_a_ID
Crumbly Writer

@Ernest Bywater

Like all writing, it's a case of horses for courses

I've found that horses generally like the first course they sign up for: hor derves, cause they don't like filling up all at once. Instead they prefer noshing for hours while gossiping with the fillies about the Phillies.

Ernest Bywater

@Crumbly Writer

Writers only used outlines because publishers required them before they'd take a chance on a future book.


I dispute your claim that outlines were only used due to publisher requirements. They help the author to work out what he's doing, and help him lay out the story. Even if the outline is only a mental one and not written down, it's still there and needed to help give direction and focus.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Ernest Bywater

@Crumbly Writer

What's more, if you ever need advice or to bounce ideas off someone else, we're always here for any and all stupid questions.


We'll even try to help with the intelligent questions, and not just the stupid questions.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Ernest Bywater

I dispute your claim that outlines were only used due to publisher requirements. They help the author to work out what he's doing, and help him lay out the story. Even if the outline is only a mental one and not written down, it's still there and needed to help give direction and focus.

I'll concede your point, after all, I admitted to keeping a mental outline, but the formal outline most think of when they think of authors are a vestige of the traditional publishers who required a written outline—often before they'd even consider a story.

What's more, when they saw something in an outline, they'd demand where it was if you shifted it somewhere else!

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Crumbly Writer

@Ernest Bywater

We'll even try to help with the intelligent questions, and not just the stupid questions.

Intelligent answers, but completely idiotic horsey puns. 'D

Dominions Son

@Crumbly Writer

but completely idiotic horsey puns. 'D


I prefer dog and cat puns.

-Puntar 4th seat of the High Puncil

richardshagrin

We are probably far enough off topic to try for a joke.

Option A: don't bother to outline
Option B: figure out something before you start writing.

To B or not to B, that is the question.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ernest Bywater

@Crumbly Writer

Intelligent answers, but completely idiotic horsey puns.


neigh.

Ernest Bywater

@Crumbly Writer

traditional publishers who required a written outline


The only time I've seen where a publisher wanted an outline was when you submit a manuscript to them they want a part of the work to look at and an outline summary of the story - that's so they can see what it's about without reading the whole manuscript and it's more comprehensive than an author outline as well usually being done after the story is finished.

Replies:   Not_a_ID  Crumbly Writer
Ernest Bywater

@richardshagrin

To B or not to B, that is the question.


actually, many years ago when I was in high school where we had form 1 to 6 after primary school of classes 1 to 6, my 2nd form English class had a slogan of:

"2B English or not 2B English - we may change it any day!"

Switch Blayde

@Crumbly Writer

outlines are mainly left-over remnants of the traditional publishers lock on the writing market years ago.


The only time a publisher would see an outline is for non-fiction (as part of a proposal. It's what's in each chapter). An outline is used by some authors to write their novels. The publisher sees the final manuscript.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Not_a_ID

@Crumbly Writer

The few honest and legitimate books, like Stephen King's, are few and far between.


Orson Scott Card has a few good books on the topic as well. Although in a nutshell, some of it can be boiled down to "It's about the embellishment, not embellishing on the things many would try to." In one of the books he talks about visiting a grade school and walking a class of 11 year olds through the process of writing a story.

That example is actually a decent case of a story being generated sans outline.

Start out with an 12 year old kid(relateable to the class, hey the book was first written in the late 1980's) babysitting someone else's child(baby/todler) for the first time. But a babysitting experience that goes off without a hitch "is boring to read about" and a very short tale. So we need something to go wrong, and thus you start to work your way down the line from there as you progress the story along.

The more details surrounding the events you can provide, as well as the events themselves, help make "the story come alive." Rather than fixating on the details on specific items than may happen to be in the room, unless of course the items are important parts of the story...

Which is where many published authors go wrong in many cases as well, where they can spend several pages describing a room without ever doing anything to advance the story anywhere. Yes, that's makes a detailed story, but it's the unimportant kind of detail, and will drive most readers bonkers.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Not_a_ID

@Ernest Bywater

The only time I've seen where a publisher wanted an outline was when you submit a manuscript to them they want a part of the work to look at and an outline summary of the story - that's so they can see what it's about without reading the whole manuscript and it's more comprehensive than an author outline as well usually being done after the story is finished.


The other case could be if you're a lower (entry) tier writer and you're either soliciting them, or being being solicited by them, to receive an advance on a book you're intending to write.

If you're JK Rowling, or another big name author on the other hand, outlines probably never venture outside of your office, and that particular office probably never has visitors.

Not_a_ID

@Ernest Bywater

If you need a lot of background, you really have to think about how you're going to insert it into the story, and sometimes it is best to establish the background first. Like all writing, it's a case of horses for courses and you need to pick and choose to suit the story.


It's always a fun conundrum on how to handle it. JMS (The writer/creator of Babylon5) said that when he went into Warner Brothers to pitch his story, he already had the 5 years outlined, and many of the high and low points of "the history" for the series, starting from about 1 Million years in the past running up to 1 Million years into the future. With most of the focus obviously being in the +/- 1,000 year window and much more of it in the +/- 100 and 10 year intervals.

But just because he had that backstory hanging around "out there" didn't mean he bludgeoned the audience with it the first chance he had. Sometimes it would be referenced in oblique ways, a seemingly obscure comment would be made, so on and so forth, while the infodumps did still happen on occasion(as a character was "brought up to speed"), they tended to happen in small amounts and were spread across a lot of other stuff that was going on.

Ernest Bywater

@Switch Blayde

The only time a publisher would see an outline is for non-fiction (as part of a proposal. It's what's in each chapter). An outline is used by some authors to write their novels. The publisher sees the final manuscript.


Call it an outline or a synopsis, the publishers usually want to see something that tells them what the story is about without having to read it all first. Many publisher will only accept submissions from their list of approved agents now, but those who will still accept over the counter submissions usually have a list like Hachette do:

- a synopsis (approximately 300 words) and word count;

- a brief biography, including any previous publishing history, writing experience or awards;

- a brief cover letter stating the genre or category, your intended audience, authors you believe are similar to you; and

- your contact details (postal address, phone number, email address).

- If your work is non-fiction, please also supply a detailed chapter outline.

- Please tell us if your work is out on submission with agents or other publishers.

- Ensure the combined attachments do not exceed 1 megabyte.


Note: for the non-fiction they want a detailed chapter outline while every submission has to have a shorter basic outline they call a synopsis - in both cases it means tell me what the story line and plot is, i.e. an outline of the story.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@Ernest Bywater

Call it an outline or a synopsis, the publishers usually want to see something that tells them what the story is about without having to read it all first.


That's the synopsis. But if you submit a synopsis, you better have the manuscript ready if they request it.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ernest Bywater

@Switch Blayde

But if you submit a synopsis, you better have the manuscript ready if they request it.


The list I posted is what they want you to send in with the manuscript.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Crumbly Writer

@Ernest Bywater

The only time I've seen where a publisher wanted an outline was when you submit a manuscript to them they want a part of the work to look at and an outline summary of the story - that's so they can see what it's about without reading the whole manuscript and it's more comprehensive than an author outline as well usually being done after the story is finished.

The times I've heard of it being done—never firsthand, as the uses were well before my time on author forums—was when they were 'optioning' a book (i.e. offering a preliminary offer on an unfinished book). As such, they wanted as detail about what the book would contain as possible. But, alas, the days when publishers offered those kinds of deals are long past. (At least no one I know has ever gotten an offer like that!)

Crumbly Writer
Updated:

@Not_a_ID


Which is where many published authors go wrong in many cases as well, where they can spend several pages describing a room without ever doing anything to advance the story anywhere. Yes, that's makes a detailed story, but it's the unimportant kind of detail, and will drive most readers bonkers.


I don't know, I seem to remember some classics "In the Wild", "Out of Africa", "Mississippi Delta" where detailed descriptions of the tropical heat and lush vegetation really gave you a feel for the place and what the characters were experiencing. It also helped prepare readers for the languid pace of the characters.

Descriptions themselves aren't the problem, it's when they're irrelevant to the plot—but then, many will argue over which details are essential to the plot.

I've read many stories based solely on the rich, florid descriptions, regardless of what the plot was about. If a story is well-written and you enjoy reading each line, the plot almost becomes secondary to the enjoyment of reading.

I've mentioned before, my ideal test for a book is to pick up a book (in a bookstore), turn to a random page in the middle of a chapter, in the middle of a paragraph and read a single line. If that one line convinces me to read the book, I know I'll enjoy the entire book, regardless of what happens in the story. Unfortunately, the books that qualify for that test are becoming increasingly rare as everyone races to write 5 to 10 word sentences any 5th grader can easily read. :(

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Ernest Bywater

@Crumbly Writer

The times I've heard of it being done—never firsthand,


The italics in my last but one post are direct from the website for Hachette about submitting manuscripts to them, so it's current for them. Also, I saw similar instructions for four other publishers while doing some publisher research last year - all were big publishers, but only a few allowed direct submissions while most stated they only accepted manuscripts from agents.

Switch Blayde

@Crumbly Writer

was when they were 'optioning' a book (i.e. offering a preliminary offer on an unfinished book). As such, they wanted as detail about what the book would contain as possible. But, alas, the days when publishers offered those kinds of deals are long past.


That's how it's done for non-fiction.

Switch Blayde

@Ernest Bywater

The list I posted is what they want you to send in with the manuscript.


I've never had one ask for a full manuscript. They want a query letter, synopsis, and sample chapters (my experience is 3–5 chapters up to a certain number of words. And the chapters have to be copied into the body of the email. No attachments.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Switch Blayde

@Crumbly Writer

rich, florid descriptions, regardless of what the plot was about. If a story is well-written and you enjoy reading each line, the plot almost becomes secondary to the enjoyment of reading.


More true for literary fiction than genre fiction.

And let us not forget, times have changed. When Jane Austen wrote, people would spend hours sitting under a tree reading beautiful prose/descriptions. Today that novel has to compete with TV and the Internet.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

And let us not forget, times have changed. When Jane Austen wrote, people would spend hours sitting under a tree reading beautiful prose/descriptions. Today that novel has to compete with TV and the Internet.

That's the reason why I got into writing, because I was sick of the 'written for a reality TV series' book plot. I prefer a well-written, well-crafted scene over an action-packed scene with bodies flying everywhere. There's a time for action, but there's also time for lyricism (though you can't spend too long on it if you expect to keep your readers happy).

All in all, you're better off investing time developing you characters, rather than developing the scene. The character descriptions will last for the entire story, while the environment will only last until the next scene.

Not_a_ID

@Crumbly Writer

I don't know, I seem to remember some classics "In the Wild", "Out of Africa", "Mississippi Delta" where detailed descriptions of the tropical heat and lush vegetation really gave you a feel for the place and what the characters were experiencing. It also helped prepare readers for the languid pace of the characters.


The operative part there would be "excessive detail that does nothing to advance the plot(or story)." Such details on that case advance the story. Now spending 3 pages describing what was placed on a table setting for an extravagant dinner, where even the craftsmanship of the dinnerware sees an exceedingly detailed description.... Unless that dinnerware is going to anthropormize such as in Beauty and Beast, or be used to leave lasting (physical) impressions upon the guests. It probably wasn't needed.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Ernest Bywater

@Switch Blayde


I've never had one ask for a full manuscript.


That could be, I'm only going with what I've seen here:

https://www.hachette.com.au/submissions/

and a few other publisher websites I didn't bother to book mark.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@Ernest Bywater

I'm only going with what I've seen here:


That's the first time I've seen a request for the full manuscript at the get-go. Usually they want a synopsis to give them the main characters and plot arc to see if they like your story and a sample of your writing to see if they like your writing. If both are yes, and the other stuff in the query matches their needs, like word count and genre, then they ask for the full manuscript.

btw, did you notice:

If your work is non-fiction, please also supply a detailed chapter outline.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ernest Bywater

@Switch Blayde

btw, did you notice:

If your work is non-fiction, please also supply a detailed chapter outline.


ayep, and even mentioned that in the earlier post.

I like how they call that a detailed chapter outline while the other is a story synopsis, while both are really and outline of what it's about, just the story one is a much briefer version.

Crumbly Writer

@Not_a_ID

Unless that dinnerware is going to anthropormize such as in Beauty and Beast, or be used to leave lasting (physical) impressions upon the guests. It probably wasn't needed.

There are exceptions to every rule: "The Great Gadsby" or even "Upstairs/Downstairs" springs to mind. But I take your point, which I made later down in the same comment you responded to.

Crumbly Writer

@Ernest Bywater

I like how they call that a detailed chapter outline while the other is a story synopsis, while both are really and outline of what it's about, just the story one is a much briefer version.

Not really. The synopsis is your elevator spiel, while the chapter outline details which topics are covered and shows how much detail you're covering (important to measure how broad the non-fiction book's appeal might be). One's a couple sentence summary while the other covers how the book is actually constructed.

It's like if someone asks to beta-read your story. You generally send them the story blurb. Most non-fiction doesn't include chapter outlines simply because many authors don't title chapters, but in my case, it reflects the humor in and temperament of the story.

By the way, just out of idle curiosity, how many authors here bother titling their chapters? If so, do you ever get any feedback about it (i.e. do fans appreciate or ignore them)?

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ernest Bywater

@Crumbly Writer

By the way, just out of idle curiosity, how many authors here bother titling their chapters?


I do, and few readers mention the chapter titles in the feedback, beyond pointing out it makes it easier to remember where they're up to. Although there are times when the chapter headings form jokes, especially in the Table of Contents - example from a story in progress:

Time and Tide
Wait for No Man

The odd thing is when it happens it's unplanned, just happens.

Crumbly Writer

@Ernest Bywater

I've had people comment on mine, especially when they create an especially clever joke you only realize once you've read the chapter, though I also got several complaints (once upon a time) about the titles containing spoilers.

I not only title my chapters, but I also like titling section breaks (where several chapters fit into a larger category). Unfortunately, SOL really doesn't really have a facility to include section titles in the story itself. Instead, they only show up in the Story index, which most readers never glace at once they started the story.

Sadly, taking my titles out of context, they lose their humor (without my detailing what happens in the chapters in question).

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ernest Bywater

@Crumbly Writer


I not only title my chapters, but I also like titling section breaks (where several chapters fit into a larger category).


I do something similar, but in the other direction. I've three levels of story text:

Chapter

Sub-chapter - where I have things happen that really deserve their own chapter but are within the general confines of the chapter they're part of. These go through the whole page break and new page process.

Section - in-line heading for a section of text within the chapter / sub-chapter it appears in.

Not all chapters have sub-chapters and not all chapters or sub-chapters have sections, but many do.

The way to tell the difference between a chapter and a sub-chapter within the text is the chapter heading is red text in a larger plain font, while the sub-chapter is in blue italic font larger than normal text, and a section is in normal text font in bold - all three are centered on the line.

The Table of Contents only shows chapters and sub-chapters.

......................

With the jokes where I do have deliberate jokes the readers do comment, what is more interesting is the times I have something I wrote that turns out as a joke, when I didn't intend it to when I wrote it. In Life is Change I picked out common surnames for the region the story is set in Georgia, USA, and assigned them to Deputy Sheriffs, then used the two more common ones for the first two deputies. After a reader said something I realized what I'd done by either accident or subconscious to have:

Passing through the main workroom he sees four deputies sitting around. He smiles, and says, "Jefferson, Davis, get a unit, and follow me. Baker, Lawson, you're going with me."

Most of my best jokes aren't written with the conscious intention of being a joke, they just come out that way.

However, I do try to make the chapter, sub-chapter, and title headings interesting and / or amusing while relevant to the general context of the text within them.

Switch Blayde

@Ernest Bywater

I like how they call that a detailed chapter outline while the other is a story synopsis, while both are really and outline of what it's about, just the story one is a much briefer version.


Not really.

In non-fiction, it's common to get a contract BEFORE the book is written. It's the detail chapter outline that is used to determine if the publisher wants to fund the writing of the book.

A synopsis is a brief summary of the main characters, main plot, plot arcs, etc., including spoilers. It's simply to help the publisher or agent determine if the structure is good.

Some development/structural editors work off the synopsis. Sometimes before the novel is written. It's to find plot holes, unrealistic characters, etc. BEFORE writing the novel so there's not a major re-write.

Switch Blayde
Updated:

@Ernest Bywater

there are times when the chapter headings form jokes,


Back in the days when movie theaters showed a double feature, there was a theater in NYC showing:

Romeo and Juliet
The Odd Couple

Joe Long

@wcoyote1958

I don't write a lot of things down (except for the actual story) but I do outline. It doesn't have to perfect or detailed but when I'm writing I want to already know where the story's going and how it all ends. That makes it much easier to keep everything logically consistent and drop in foreshadowing.

First, a premise or scenario
Second, some characters
Third, how did they get is this situation?
Fourth, how does it all end?

Then start filling in the major plot points in the middle. As any ideas for future scenes come along, jot them down. The closer I get to future scenes the more I ponder what they mean and how they're important which allows me to fill in the details. Sometimes I'll think of new scenes along the way.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@Joe Long

First, a premise or scenario
Second, some characters
Third, how did they get is this situation?
Fourth, how does it all end?


Yep, and those 4 things in writing terms are:

plot's conflict
characters
inciting incident
plot's climax

Replies:   Joe Long  Crumbly Writer
Joe Long

@Switch Blayde

Of course - I was just keeping it in layman's terms.

I believe the best writing will result from the author knowing where the story is going. Logical consistencies, subplots, foreshadowing, symbolism etc are so much easier when there's a plan.

I can rattle off perhaps a dozen scenes that I know remain in my story. I don't yet know all the details (although sometimes the characters decide to give me a free preview in my head) and I may drop in more scenes, but don't expect any major plot changes.

One change I did decide upon, for example, came after pondering how long my leads could keep their relationship a secret from their parents. [spoiler] I wrote a 1st draft of a future scene where the MC's mom figures it out. It was good, but I wasn't sure if I could use it because the repercussions had to echo throughout the rest of the story. I thought about it some more and decided "No, she can't keep it a secret from her sister. There will have to be a big sit-down." I visualized that confrontation and made necessary adjustments to the rest of the story. Now I can continue writing the preceding chapters knowing that's coming.

lichtyd

@wcoyote1958

Much like you wcoyote1958, I'm learning as I go. For my current story, I work from a timeline. Although it's just an outline in chronological order.

In hindsight, my story would have benefitted from a more detailed outline.

My favorite guide to American English Grammar is, "The best punctuation book, period." by June Casagrande.

The best thesaurus is www.powerthesarus.org

I hope you continue to enjoy writing. It's the best hobby I've ever had.

lichtyd

Switch Blayde

@lichtyd

The best thesaurus is www.powerthesarus.org


Don't forget about http://www.onelook.com

And it's reverse dictionary. Want a word for "search for food" but can't think of one, put "search for food" in the reverse dictionary and it will give you a list of words.

And it's a good tool to get rid of those adverbs. You can put in "run quickly" and it will give you words.

Want a winter sport in your story? There's even a way to ask for winter sports.

richardshagrin

Winter sports vary, sometimes a lot, by location. Not a lot of snow skiing in Florida, and in Australia Winter is the warm season. Basketball might be a late fall, winter sport is a lot of the USA, but Women's Pro Basketball is a Spring and Summer sport.

lichtyd

@Switch Blayde

Thank you for suggesting OneLook!

lichtyd

Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

plot's climax

Gasp, sigh! 'D

Crumbly Writer

@lichtyd

The best thesaurus is www.powerthesarus.org

I haven't used that one yet. Thanks for pointing it out, I'll have to add it to my thesaurus list (since most don't offer that many options). I typically use thesaurus.com.

Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

Don't forget about http://www.onelook.com

And it's reverse dictionary. Want a word for "search for food" but can't think of one, put "search for food" in the reverse dictionary and it will give you a list of words.

And it's a good tool to get rid of those adverbs. You can put in "run quickly" and it will give you words.

One site sells books sells a variety of 'thesaurus' books (like "The Emotional Thesaurus") which lists alternatives for various types of situations. I've found these very useful and a good read to wrap your head about 'showing' instead of 'showing'.

Unfortunately, if you purchase the books on Amazon, you often can't reference the books easily while writing, while the print books end up sitting on the shelf while you're writing on your computer. I haven't quite figured out how to keep them handy so I'll use them while writing. :(

Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

Don't forget about http://www.onelook.com

And it's reverse dictionary. Want a word for "search for food" but can't think of one, put "search for food" in the reverse dictionary and it will give you a list of words.

And it's a good tool to get rid of those adverbs. You can put in "run quickly" and it will give you words.

One site sells books sells a variety of 'thesaurus' books (like "The Emotional Thesaurus") which lists alternatives for various types of situations. I've found these very useful and a good read to wrap your head about 'showing' instead of 'showing'.

Unfortunately, if you purchase the books on Amazon, you often can't reference the books easily while writing, while the print books end up sitting on the shelf while you're writing on your computer. I haven't quite figured out how to keep them handy so I'll use them while writing. :(

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