The thrill of outlining – part 1

Karalee’s Post #61

outline novel book

Right now I am taking an online course called Outlining Your Novel: Map Your Way to Success with Stephen Mertz through Writer’s Digest University. The course is following the book by the same name as the course, by author K.M. Weiland, and I would recommend it for all writers no matter if you are a minimalist in your preparation or prolific in gathering everything together before you start your first draft.

In the effort to help ease those of you unsure of how much to outline or where to start, I’m going to divide the course I’m taking into three parts and three blogs, much like the familiar 3 Act Story Arc: Beginning, Middle and End.

Today’s post is Part 1. The Beginning.

plant beginning

If you think about it, outlining a story includes everything we writers do before and during the writing of our manuscripts since outlining includes all the information we need to know about our characters and plot line in order to write our story. It’s the way we document and organize our thoughts and information that is individual for each of us.

The actual outlining can take many forms:

  • ultra-organized for those that work best keeping their ideas in one place such as in a table format scene-by-scene or on index cards, in word documents or the like. The writing software I find extremely helpful is Scrivener. It is available for the Mac and PC.
  • completely unorganized on slips of paper here and there but hopefully gathered in one file or pile.
  • bubble-mapping your ideas and the plot and character interactions.
  • Writing out our thoughts as one long synopsis.
  • and any array in-between all the above

The more I engage in the art of writing the more I’m convinced that however you outline it is a gathering of your ideas and recording them in some form and in one place where you can find them again with the overall benefit of SAVING TIME!

I am also convinced that the process of outlining is a very very creative part of developing one’s story. Here is where the seed of an idea can be played with, allowing roots to grow in any direction, following any train of thought to see if it is viable. It is at this initial creative level that ideas can be explored down unexpected avenues in both plot and character development that can add dimensions and twists to your story or become evident that they are throwaways before you begin your first draft and spend too much time in a direction that will demand a re-write.

Brainstorming is part of outlining, and who doesn’t like to do that?

So what is the beginning of outlining?

The beginning is your seed of an idea, add in a few what if’s? and see where they take you in order for you to write The Premise Sentence that solidifies plot, conflict and characters. In other words, what is your book about?

As your story idea develops and fleshes out, The Premise Sentence may change. If it does, rewrite it and keep it posted where you can see it as you write your manuscript as it is helpful tool to keep you grounded as to what your story is about.

Happy outlining!

2 thoughts on “The thrill of outlining – part 1

  1. I actually ordered this book and it arrived today! Glad to hear your enthusiasm about the course … I’ll be following in your footsteps (independently), a few paces behind.

  2. You are getting close to convince me to become an outliner. At least as far as the brainstorming goes. All good food for thoughts. Thanks for this useful post, Karalee. We all need more and better tools in our writer’s toolbox.

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