Outlining Short Stories & Novelettes: A Writing Experiment

Posted: May 19, 2015 in Living and Life, Novelette, Reflections, Writing
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

I might’ve mentioned this a few times on this blog and on my Facebook and Twitter pages, but I’ve been trying something new with my writing. As you probably know, I’ve been working on a couple of shorter works, a short story and what will likely turn out to be a novelette, since I finished the second draft of my thesis/novel Rose. Unlike previous shorter works, where most or all of the story has been laid out in my head and I’m just transmitting it to the page, I’ve been actually outlining these stories on paper so I have a better idea of where I’m going and to see if doing so improves the stories overall.

I decided to try this because of two things I’ve noticed with my shorter works. For one thing, I’m always worried about the final word count. Many fiction magazines only accept stories of a certain length, and I’m always worried I won’t be able to tell a compelling story within that space, so I try to wedge it in. Usually that doesn’t turn out the results I wish.

Another reason I’m trying outlining is that when I usually write shorter works, most of the story is mapped out in my head. But when I try to get the rest on the page, I sit there wondering which direction to go, how to tell the story just right. And depending on the story, this sitting and wondering can take a while before I actually figure something out and start writing.

For both of these reasons, I’m trying to outline my shorter works. The outlines themselves are just basic summaries of the events of the story, which works for me. It’s just enough information that I can work with it to write the actual story.

And the results have been very interesting. Having a clear direction of where I’m going by writing it all down beforehand not only cuts down on the time I spend on sitting wondering where to go, but having a definite idea of where I’m going makes me less anxious over the word count. It’s kind of…decompressing, in a strange way. I can just write the story as I intend it in the outline and not worry how long or short it is.

As for the stories themselves, the results have been rather mixed. For the first story Streghe, which I finished not too long ago, the outline didn’t help as much, but that was mostly because I kept going back and rewriting or changing the direction of the story. I’d like to write another outline for the second draft though, especially since I think there will be a lot that will change between the first and second drafts. We’ll just have to see what I come up with in-between drafts though and what direction I want to go with that story.

As for the story I’m working on now, a science-fiction story currently at about sixty-seven hundred words, the outline has been very helpful so far. I have a very good idea of where I’m going with the story, and in-between sessions of writing I’m able to lay out what I’m going to put down on the page next in my head, rehearsing whole scenes before I write them down. It’s been a lot of fun working on this one.

Based on what’s happened so far, I think I’ll continue to outline my shorter works along with my longer works for now. As long as it works for me, why not use it? It just goes to show that no matter what stage of your writing career you are in, you’re never too old or too late to learn a few new tricks. And boy, am I glad I learned this one.

Do you or have you ever outlined your shorter works?

What’s been the effects of doing so on your stories?

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Comments
  1. segmation says:

    Do you like twitter, facebook or wordpress the most and why?

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