Endless Summer, Part 6 – Outlining is Optional

Throughout the writing process that I have outlined in this miniature series and/or pseudo-fanfic-writing guide, I mentioned that the planning process for writers can vary from utterly meticulous to spontaneous and non-existent. I thus urged readers of this series to go the middle way, since it helps the spontaneous keep sight of the ultimate message they want to send, and also helps provide the meticulous a foundation from which to further plan their story. This step is for the latter. If further planning is not for you, then feel free to dive right into the writing!

There’s Always a Plan

No matter how balls-to-the walls you are about writing, there is always a semblance of plot and structure that exists in almost every story. There’s always elements of plot development, plot twists, and characterization that’s based on a pool of knowledge that creators draw from subconsciously. The collective experience of storytelling media that writers take in over the course of their lives creates a natural tendency towards ingrained patterns like beginning-middle-end.

It’s not a bad thing, as the structure of a narrative can not only be flexible in execution, but also provides opportunity to expand the structure more.  Going back to our snowflake example in part 5, the next step in that method is to expand the general plot concept into its individual plot points, which then expand into fully-written summaries of each of those said plot points (for short stories, which I aim to do, it’s not entirely necessary, since there aren’t as many scenes).

That said, a basic idea of the general sequence of events is a reasonable balance between not knowing what your characters are going to do, and writing out your entire story before having a chance to actually write the story.  Single sentence summaries of each major action in the story are good enough, especially for short stories like the one I’m planning.  Let’s take a look at what these 5 steps have culiminated in so far!

The Sequence of Events of Haruhi Suzumiya

1. Kyon hears Kyubey’s voice on the way to meeting Haruhi Suzumiya and the SOS brigade.

2. The SOS brigade goes swimming, Kyubey keeping watch from afar.

3. After the SOS brigade planns out the rest of their summer, a witch barrier forms around Kyon and Yuki.

4. At a bon festival, Kyubey reappears before Kyon, Yuki, and Koizumi, to which he claims that he intends to turn Haruhi into a magical girl.

5. The night after the cicada hunt, Kyon gets a distress call from Mikiru, who was rescued from a witch barrier by Yuki and Koizumi.

7. Kyubey reveals to Yuki, Kyon, Koizumi, and Mikiru about the time loop, its connection to Haruhi becoming a magical girl.

8. The rest of the summer is spent as normal, interspersed with SOS activities and witch hunting.

9. August 30th, SOS finishes their activities, and a witch of the same magnitude as Walpurgisnacht appears. Haruhi discovers everything.

10. The SOS fights the new Walpurgisnacht, while Kyubey offers Haruhi the contract of granting her a wish and becoming a magical girl.

11. ???


Seriously, I can’t go and spoil the ending. Rest assured, the full draft of this story will be posted on this blog in some way or form.  The easiest part about fanfiction is that if the fic is dependent on particular events that already happened in canon, it’s easier to use the canon’s event timeline as the backbone of your outline, and build the variations from there.  As seen above, the story is near-identical to Endless Eight, but with Kyubey and witches thrown in the mix.  Like all the iterations of Endless Eight, there are familiar events, but they are twisted by the universe from Puella Magi Madoka Magica, which fulfills the novelty of the crossover.

Looking at this list, I can see that I will need to be economical with word choice, as the original Endless Eight story was about 30 pages, or over NINE thirteen thousand words, by conservative estimate.  Going back to the limitations that I put on myself, staying under seven thousand will be a challenge, but one shouldn’t worry about word count in the first draft.  It’s more effective to go over the limit and make cuts than to go way under and pad the story with inconsequential fluff.  As per the other restrictions, such as AJ’s vignette and the recursive lines, I have a good idea of where they will end up.

Final Thoughts

I’m really excited about having finished this series of fanfic planning. Planning is an important step in the writing process, regardless of whether you are writing fanfiction, original fiction, or even blog posts and other forms of nonfiction. Heck, even this series was planned in the same manner. I started with an idea of marrying a fanfic writing mini-guide with the schedule of of Endless Summer, as experienced by the SOS brigade. I set restrictions for myself by trying to adhere to a condensed posting schedule, as well as finishing before August 31. I referred to my various writing resources to compile a particular collection of information, which I outlined into different parts, each of which were numbered and planned from the beginning.

I didn’t have the luxury of being able to write this series in advance and schedule my posts accordingly, but the preparation that I did made the writing of those posts a lot more comfortable, and a lot less demanding. As for the fic itself, I can finally start writing it, now that I have a really good idea of how I want the story to pan out. I have a wealth of information to work with, and with a more relaxed schedule, I can go through it at my own pace, and create a rough draft that I would love to share sometime in the future.

I really hope that you learned a few tips or so with regards to not only writing fanfiction, but writing in general as well. I look forward to doing more projects such as this one in the future!


6 thoughts on “Endless Summer, Part 6 – Outlining is Optional”

    1. It’s only the beginning, if this series is any indication. I hope to continue taking a writer’s approach to my posts regarding anime. I can’t wait to get down to writing this one, especially after doing all those livewatches with the Endless Summer sccsav group!

  1. I definitely agree with having even a basic outline or structure if you’re planning to write anything; last year, for my second NaNoWriMo, I had half of a story outlined and figured that I would outline the rest while I was writing since I didn’t have an ending in mind yet. I turned out that I didn’t have any extra time to outline and once I ran out of structured plot events the whole thing went off the rails straight into Random Tangent Land. At least it was worth 50,000 words. XD

    1. I tried both ways, using my middle-ground method as a place to start from. I won both years, though the second year, I did not do any research on steam locomotives, and it clearly showed, hahaha.

      Speaking of which, I’m greatly considering posting my NaNoWriMo progress on my blog. I plan on doing some form of fanfiction this year, which will make excellent blog fodder. I’ve already decided that this would partially be a fanfiction blog too, so it probably won’t be a surprise, then.

  2. The outline is definitely the most important thing towards forming a coherent story; however, I’ve found that personally the largest hurdle to overcome is sticking to said outline, especially when one thinks of so many wonderful ideas during the writing process (and obviously all of them can’t be included if you want a well-written, concise story). Perhaps this is why so many of my fanfiction (and general) writing endeavors have derailed and have never been completed. Whoops!

    As I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading this series (and look forward to your story) I also look forward to your entries regarding NaNoWriMo. Thanks for the food for thought! ^ ^

    1. “Perhaps this is why so many of my fanfiction (and general) writing endeavors have derailed and have never been completed. Whoops!”

      In my personal experience, it’s also the fact that fanfiction tends to gravitate towards the serial side of writing (perhaps because of the unplanned nature of the story as well, which goes back to your point). The ones that aim to be long-runners tend to span several arcs, and go way beyond the length of a typical novel (50,000-80,000 words). Serial fiction is very difficult to conclude, and much easier to leave as deadfic.

      Nanowrimo is going to be very fun indeed. And thanks for the comments so far!

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