It's Craft Note Monday! (These may be harder and harder to do in the future, so give me some ideas if you feel game.)
I have heard two schools of thought in regard to writing and planning/outlining.
First, some authors believe in absolutely no planning and just write as it comes to their head (write it organically). To outline is to kill that creative side: You're no longer just going with the flow because your mind has already come to conclusions and climaxes.
Second, some authors believe in planning and outlining everything about their project down to the very last scene.
I subscribe to the second school of thought, but I didn't always.
When I first started writing stories (I've been writing since I was nine, but really got serious about it all at 13 when I was starting high school), I would just sit down and write what came to me. Outlining was a foreign concept. I would write and write and write letting the characters do whatever they wanted--which often included a lot of kissing and maybe a few nude scenes... what can I say, I was a bit naughty back in the day. I had no clear purpose or ending in view when I wrote, just two characters interacting. Making out or shooting guns and riding horses. (I was big into Westerns for a short amount of time. I blame the movie "Bad Girls".) I've been told that "just going with the flow" can produce the best kind of story (you'll often find that literary stories do this, focusing more on character than plot), but I quickly became bored out of my mind and ready to start the next great idea. I probably finished maybe one full project from the time I was 13 until my early 20s. I have dozens and dozens of 20-75 page stories that just kinda end, and maybe a handful that actually made it to "the end."
It wasn't until "Killing Memories" (the first Es and Moo novel on FictionPress) that I decided I needed to know where things were going. I credit my change into outlining/planning to the readers of KM1 who reviewed and showed their excitement for story. I didn't want to let anyone down. I needed to take KM some where and actually have an ending. So, halfway through that novel, I grabbed a piece of paper and outlined what needed to happen to get to the end. From that moment on, I've been a planner. I LOVE OUTLINES.
I tend to imagine my stories having around 20 chapters in them and list 1-20 on a page and start filling in the numbers (several will end up blank because I don't know everything that will happen). I have key areas that I know I need to hit and try to work my way to that spot. So, it might look something like this:
1. Beginning, introduce characters and problem
2. Build characters and story line
3. Introduce villain or main obstacle
6. Big Party at XXX's house leads to first kiss.
7. Aftermath of party
12. Villain starts to make things difficult for YYY.
15. Build up to main conflict.
16. Main conflict occurs (what is it?)
18. Conclusion - YYY and XXX break up and go to college.
This isn't any real story that I'm working on, just an illustration of what I usually end up doing. Sometimes I'm able to fill in all the blanks. And sometimes, even though I've planned for things to happen, as I write stuff will shift and change and I have to reorder the chapters or add new ones. A lot of things change in the writing process. Last week I worked out plot ideas for books 2 and 3 of my Fallen Guardian novels, just so I know what I'm working toward. I need to know how I want that final book to end. Outlines become loose guidelines that help me know that I'm working toward something, even if all the stuff in the middle flip flops, erases, or changes all together.
Here are a few links on outlining:
Fiction Factor - I tend to follow the chapter-by-chapter guide idea.
Pro Writing Tips - Just some interesting perspectives.
Advice on Novel Writing - Check out the "Ten Points on Plotting"
So, what school of thought to you follow in regard to outlining/planning?
Side Note: My heart goes out to all of Japan. So scary!