Thursday, April 24, 2008

Crossing the First Threshold (Outlining)

So what does the "desk" of a compulsive outliner look like?

As part of my new resolve not to be distracted by e-mail, forums, blogs(!) and the like when I'm "working" on writing, I've taken over the guest bedroom. This is where I spend the first hour or so of most weekdays, meeting with my "mentors" and learning how to outline. If you dropped by today, here's what you'd see (left).
I like this picture because you can see the bright, sunny room I get to work in. (I hope my mom doesn't come to spend the night soon or she'll be on the couch!) But you don't really get the full impact of my outlining so far.

This pictures gives you a much better view of the appearance of my "desk". I curl up there in the upper left, pillow for a lap desk, reviewing all my notecards and scribbling down my ideas.
I'm using notecards. Lots and lots of notecards. I'm using green notecards for notes on The Writer's Journey, by Christopher Vogler (the book I just finished). Pink notecards for notes and ideas on character development. White notecards to write mini-synopses on different parts of the story as they occur to me, and yellow notecards to actually write line-for-scene cards. The notes I've taken from the book (see green notecards) I use to brainstorm ideas. If it's just story flow - what needs to happen, I write these on white index cards. If I actually get down to a real scene, with conflict and scene arc, I write this on a yellow card.

While it may seem my attempts to organize are getting in the way of progress, I'm proud to report that I have a fairly decent outline for about the first 6 of the 12 stages of The Hero's Journey. I've decided my heroine (a young gypsy woman, for anyone not familiar with my work in progress) has three approaches to reaching her goal, and conveniently, there is a male character/potential love interest who represents each of these approaches. Having these three different approaches gives me a lot of options when trying to fill in that "saggy middle" of the story.

But it also makes for a lot of ideas floating around, and I've found the notecards aren't always as visual as I need. So, I've stolen an idea from my friend Linda Gerber. I took three file folders, divided each in half, and then in four sections. On the left, I've written each stage of the journey, and scribble in the highlights or broad overall structure of the story (like the three approaches noted above). On the right, I stick tons of post-it notes with my ideas. This is very visual, as I can see everything at once, and I can move the post-its around as my ideas about the story develop. I'm still using the notecards too (there's not much room on those tiny post-its). It may seem complicated, but it's all working for me!

Somehow, at the end of all this, I may have a comprehensive strategy to recommend to anyone who, like me, can't seem to move forward in writing without an outline. For now, it's working for me, and it evolves as I go along. The real proof of concept will be a finished book!


Rhonda said...

Colorful note cards! (Why didn't I think of that?) I love keeping cards on hand...I like the organization in yours. I was about to do something similar on a board with the post-its, in attempt to try to outline my hero's journey.
I’ve been listening to the Hauge/Volger tape all week.

Oh, I also work on a bed....>g<
So, maybe there’s hope.

Jenny Graman Meyer said...

Oh, if only there were more colors! {g} And here's to those who write in bed!

How are you enjoying the Hauge/Vogler tape? I listened to it over a year ago, but want to relisten now that I know where I'm headed. I found it to be one of the best things I've ever read (heard) about plotting.

Rhonda said...

I love the Hauge/Vogler tape! I've been playing it while at work this week. I've made lots of notes. It is good to think of my story through a different process.

I also started the folder idea and have post-it notes inside.

Jenny Graman Meyer said...

Yeah! Here's one small step toward the outlining revolution! {g}