- 50-page detailed plans
- a reworking of The Hero’s Journey
- a simple series of index cards with a list of characters, major scenes and sequels
- structured timelines
- a series of character questionnaires showing development, motivations, flaws and strengths
- story maps
- one-page chapter-by-chapter outlines
- one-page synopses
Some authors have plotted their stories for decades in their heads,
making notes in journals. As George RR Martin, creator of A Song of
Fire and Ice says:
All the major things have been planned since the beginning,
since the early 90s, the major deaths and the general direction of things.
Obviously, the details and the minor things have been things that I’ve
discovered along the way, part of the fun of writing the books is making these
discoveries along the journey. But the general structure of the books has been
in my head all along.
Source for Outlining Methods
Here are five advantages tor outlining your novel before you
There is very little chance of
writer’s block. Getting
stuck in a rut or losing the plot are the most common reasons people join
our course. They have tried the ‘pantser’ method and failed. None of these
writers have outlined or worried about whether they have a plot that is
strong enough to see them through. Once they join Writers Write, and work
out that they need a plan, they are much happier and mostly more
successful. If you get stuck, you simply look at the outline and move on.
You reduce the number of
rewrites and edits.
Outlining is similar, in many ways, to a first draft. If you spend time
planning the book, you will have already written at least one rough draft
before you start on the manuscript. You will also be able to write more
quickly because you have a plan. The freedom of having an outline allows
you to be more creative when you’re writing scenes. You can use your
writing skills to craft the story instead of frantically trying to think
about what happens next.
You spot problem areas
before you begin. It is
easy to write yourself and your characters into impossible situations. It
might be fun, but you may have to scrap an entire book and begin again if
you can’t write yourself out of it.
It improves creativity. By thinking everything through and
planning your story you’re stimulating the creative process. Even if you
write the first draft without referring to your outline, you will have a
head start with your story. You will also be able to thread ideas through
the story and to foreshadow more effectively. You can’t foreshadow if you
don’t know what is going to happen next.
You can develop compelling
characters with clear story goals.
This allows you to imagine how your character will develop over the course
of the story. Because you know what happens, his or her arc will never be
out of step with the rest of the manuscript.
What do you have to
lose by outlining? Very little. In more than 10 years of teaching, I have never had students say that it
has made their writing worse. Most of them are grateful that they do not have
to waste more time on books that fall flat.
- The Author’s Promise – two things every writer should do
- 7 Extremely Good Reasons to Write the Ending First
- What is the difference between a commercial and a literary plot?
- Basic Plot Structure – The Five Plotting Moments That Matter