As of this writing, I’m working through scene 45 of Queen’s Legacy. I know it’s scene 45 because in my outline (which I will never, ever do by hand again) that is the number it has. Overall, I’ve got 126 scenes (plus a timeline and flowchart), and I will get to them all. It provides a level of progress (along with wordcounts), but most importantly it tells me where I’m going.
The roadmap of where I’m going is vitally important. It keeps me on track, so that I know what I intend to write, and what each scene will include. I also include notes on whose POV I’m using for that scene, and what I intend to accomplish in it (sort of a metadata for that scene). The flowchart is just for some complex battle scenes as I had trouble making sure they all fit together. The timeline just holds everything to a constant timescale.
Outlining also, and maybe this is the most important of all, reminds me of all the cool ideas I had when coming up with the story.
I admit it, I can’t remember everything I think of when I’m plotting. When I sit down to make a new story, I sit with a blank piece of paper (and maybe a few notes from my ‘story ideas’ folder) and start to compose. It’s pretty free form. I start thinking of the plot, the characters, where I want it to go, any key or cool scenes I’d like to include. However, that’s all it is, just an assortment of scribblings that are the nucleus of something. Mostly to date it has been for writing RPG adventures, but as I was sitting down to plot out Queen’s Legacy, the techniques have served me just as well.
From there, I do an act breakdown. Treating it like a multi-act play or adventure sort of helps me to break the action in to phases. Not in an ironclad way, such that I must hold to it, but more as a standard starting point. This construct then becomes the bones upon which I finalize the overall storyline, and dress up a few characters or ideas.
For an RPG adventure, the next step for me has then been to write the individual encounters and events that will make up the adventure. Things get tweaked along the way, but the writing pretty much stays true to what I outlined.
When I started fully outlining Queen’s Legacy, I replaced the encounters from the RPG adventure with a scene-by-scene breakdown of the story. Some scenes had a few lines of notes, as they are quick, fairly simple in their action, or otherwise need little explanation. Others were a full half-page so as to capture the intended action and other details. Once this was done, the actual prose started.
Thus, everything I want to include is already outlined. This is the bones and sinew of the story. It has all the scenes and all the events that I want to tell. This allows me, once it’s time to start putting the prose in place, to focus on writing those scenes well, rather than constantly being concerned with how it fits. I’ve already thought about how everything fits together, even if I change it.
Change it I certainly will. As I have written the first portions, I’ve already changed some events, moving them between scenes. In some cases cutting some material out or adding some in as I realized the flow would be better one way or the other. Despite needing an outline to stay on mission, I in no way write it in stone. Things can change, scenes can move or be altered, all in service to telling the story as I outlined it waaaay back in the single sheet of paper stage. Or maybe I change it dramatically and move away from that. Sometimes I just have better ideas than when I originally outlined it.
Sometimes I just embrace the chaos when I think of something better or a newer, better scene I need. That works too, but without the overall roadmap, I couldn’t do what seat-of-the-pants (pantsers) do. More power to them for being able to, but I just can’t. Any time I’ve tried I tend to fizzle out after maybe a scene or two, because I just don’t know where I’m going. Admittedly, that’s me. One’s own mileage may vary, but thought I’d share.
This doesn’t even include the revision process, which will have its own joys.