Outlining-How much is enough?

I’m very excited about being selected for the Novel Writing Course taught by Kij Johnson at  Kansas U, Lawrence this June ( http://www.sfcenter.ku.edu/novel-workshop.htm ). I’ve never been to a workshop like this before and I have no idea what to expect. I do hope to learn a great deal about the mechanics of creating a good novel though and learning from my fellow participants. There seems to be a great mix of folks attending.

For the workshop, we need to have an outline for the novel and this has caused me some anxiety. I usually don’t create much of an outline when I begin a project. I jot down the big things I know that will happen, though.

I know the beginning, the end and a few major plot points in the novel and that’s about it. I have a few characters and then I start writing. I suppose you could call me a quasi-pantser. On the other hand, I guess you could call me a quasi-plotter… It all depends on your point of view.

I’ve queried the good folks at out Houston Science Fiction/Fantasy and Horror writers Meetup group just to see how people approach their writing, specifically dealing with outlines.

It’s a mixed bag. Some folks don’t plot at all. They start with a scene and just write. Others plot out their novels in painstaking detail, scene by scene and then fill in the scenes with action and dialogue, etc.

One friend of mine, Jason Kristopher ( http://thefireinourheads.com/my-books/ ), started doing a more detailed outline for his third book in his series The Dying of the Light and he’s a big fan of the process now. He tells me that it has increased his efficiency and productivity. It must really be working for him.

I just don’t know if I can outline on a fine scale. But, to be honest, I’ve never really given it a try.

I do enjoy having a general direction to go in while I’m writing and have the story unfold and characters becoming more than I originally intended. That’s a great feeling.

In my current work in progress, Enclave, a simple house keeper has actually become a major, important character. I had no idea Amelie Batherwilde was so incredible. She told me so.

I fear that if I outline to a fine level of detail, I’d miss that opportunity.

But, back to the workshop.

I need to have an outline for my novel and this is the major tool that will be used to help rework the novel. I suppose I need a detailed outline for the others in the workshop to analyze. My usual notes of a beginning, middle, and end, don’t seem to be up to the work required.

I don’t want to waste everyone’s time.

So I’m going to give it a try. I’m going to outline.

But how to start?

I have a stack of virtual notecards with scene/chapters described in one line, but this feels flat to me. I might use this to improve the outline, but I don’t think it’ll be the final product.

I’ve written a synopsis of what I think the novel will have, though. That’s another requirement.

My goal is to take that synopsis and broaden it, turn it into an outline, then see where I stand.

It’s exciting to try something new. But also scary. It might make for a better product though and I’m all for that.

How do you use outlines? I’d be very interested to know your process when beginning a new work.

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