Anonymous said: Forgive me if you've gotten this question, but how do you outline?

Anon, I’ve been staring at this question for a good twenty minutes, and I don’t know how to answer it. I don’t know how to answer it because I am a goddamn mess, and I don’t want to teach anyone my bad habits. I don’t know why my writing process works for me. Rationally, it shouldn’t. Not when I work like this. I have ADD, and instead of fighting it, I forgive myself for being scattered and just roll with it. I work on multiple things simultaneously. That’s one of the reasons that I update in bursts—-I work on things in chunks. I vacillate between being hyper focused and scattered. Instead of letting myself use my scattered days as an excuse not to write, I set up a couple of stories that I want to make progress on and move through them. I hate MS Word because I don’t need MORE things to distract me, so I use TextEdit to write. Editing comes later; when I’m writing, those little squiggly red and green lines have to fuck right off. But that’s writing process, not outlining.

I wonder sometimes if my writing style is helped by or hampered by my ADD. My outlining process is kind of convoluted, but only because I have to compartmentalize in order to get things finished. I usually have one idea or image that I start with, then branch out from there. I know that a lot of writers have kind of arbitrary ways of cutting chapters up, but I have to be strict with myself. No scene can be in there “just because”. Every chapter has its own loop that needs to be completed, and every section needs to feed into that—-as well as into the overall arc of the story. Argh, this is difficult to explain in abstracts, so let me go back to familiar ground (aka NDND) to explain what I mean.

Let’s take chapter five of NDND. The theme of this chapter was redemption and forgiveness, the rise before the eventual fall. The scenes break down like so:

  1. Damian and Steph fight Zsasz → Steph saves Zsasz, setting him on the path to “redemption”. Damian doesn’t believe he should be forgiven, both because of Zsasz’s crimes and the internalized hatred that Damian has for himself, projected on Zsasz.
  2. Steph has a nightmare → Steph and Damian discuss her “redemption” through death, and Batman’s role as savior. Damian struggles with the idea of forgiveness.
  3. Damian and Steph meet Jason → Damian refuses to forgive Jason because that is what his father set in stone.
  4. Bat bondage → Damian has to give up control and allow Steph to redefine his father’s law. He has consciously realized that he looks to her for guidance.
  5. Jason and Steph’s milkshake date → Steph extends the olive branch, letting Jason know that she won’t fight him, and that she won’t force Batman’s ideal of redemption on him.
  6. Damian and Milagro → Damian realizes, for the first time, what Steph’s loss will do to him. It’s a taste for what’s to come.
  7. Damian and Steph discuss what really happened to Bruce and Dick → Steph offers Damian the same forgiveness that she gave Zsasz, which Damian both desperately needs and fears. This loops the first scene with the last one. There are three moments of forgiveness, and the second of the three times that someone offers Steph sanctuary (first Tim, then Jason, then Loveless).

When I write a structured, long-form story, every chapter has to loop like that. I’m driven by repetition and odd numbers (which someone caught and explained on my TV Tropes page. It still boggles my mind that that page exists…). Ultimately, if you can’t explain what a scene is bringing to a story, it shouldn’t be there. EVERYTHING should serve a purpose. I’m not as strict with myself when it comes to my “drabbles”, but my self-contained, novel-length stories need to have outlines like that one.

When I start with my outlines, they’re a disorganized mess of bits of dialogue, references, big picture ideas, and descriptions. I never let go of an idea. Large chunks of text are never deleted; they’re just moved to another file. If I’m stuck on a sequence of events, I write them down on notecards and play around with them—-sometimes, physically organizing thoughts like that helps.

I don’t know if I answered anything for you, anon. But I tried.