What do you do when you're outlining a story, but so indecisive on the plot like you have so much ideas just for the say the climax or the falling action. Ugh I need help.
Oh boy, do I know this struggle. It’s a very overwhelming feeling to have so many ideas coming at you. There are a million directions in which your story can go, but at the end of the day, only one will make the final cut. It’s absolutely terrifying–especially when you’re a perfectionist who wants to get it right the first time.
So first things first..
- Do you have everything written down?
I know. It sounds too basic and silly to mention. But if you’re anything like me, your head will be spinning as you try to figure out all the millions of alternate ways a plot can move forward. You have so many ideas and thoughts but never do anything but let them swim in my head forever, leaving you in a perpetual haze of frustration and confusion. But fear not! There is an easy solution to this.
Write everything down. And when I say everything, I mean EVERYTHING. Every scrap and insignificant detail you have lodged up in your brain. Don’t worry about organizing the ideas–that will come later. You’re probably the type of person whose brain races faster than their pencil; in which case you may feel like this is a futile effort–do it anyway. There are loads of things you haven’t yet discovered about your story anyway, and who says you can’t add more to your notes as you go?
Your head should feel at least somewhat clear after that. I don’t know about you, but sometimes what feels like 50 different scene endings for scene 34 will actually only be 4. After you write everything down, organize your notes in the way that works best for you–be that a mind map or the standard roman numeral outline or diagram of a unicorn’s back.
2. Take a step back and look at the big picture of your story.
Let’s say you have 5 different ideas for your story’s climax. What you want to accomplish with each alternative can possibly be combined. Maybe you want a specific line of dialogue to be used or something like that–can the line be delegated to a scene from one of your subplots? Is it possible for climax idea number 4 to be incorporated somewhere earlier in the plot? Examine your characters and their dynamics with each other. Look at the character growth and development from the beginning until the climax. Does climax idea number 2 align with what your characters would actually do? Sometimes what you want to happen in the story and what you have built up in any scenes you have outlined or written down may not actually be saying the same things. It might be helpful to jot down notes as you brainstorm this.
3. Having said all of this, don’t stress too much about the outline.
It’s just an outline. Once you’ve written your entire first draft, you’ll be editing things around and deleting things anyway. The outline isn’t a rule set in stone for what your story must follow; it’s more like a guideline.
4. So write something, anything.
It’s impossible to include every single detail you want to include in your story. And if you’re really stumped over which idea to use for the climax, I’m sure they’re great ideas. Just because you don’t use them for this particular story, doesn’t mean you can never use them. You love these ideas for a reason, and there’s no reason why you should let them go to waste!
Save it for another story, or maybe a sequel–whatever floats your boat.
If you’re worried about over planning, check out Rebekah’s post on the subject.
I hope this helps!