|one of J. K. Rowling's very complicated plot|
Outlining and You
I know what you’re thinking about the title of this post. Outlining, the evil scourge of the writer, nasty holdover from high school English class that sucks all the fun and creativity out of opening up your muse and letting her flow from your fingertips unfettered, free.
Please, allow me to elaborate before you brush off the one tool that could take you from the choppy sea of book writing to the hallowed shores of book written.
When I outline, it’s one of the most creative things I’ve ever been privileged to undertake. From core idea through one-sheet delight into conflict building and to a full, chapter-by-chapter breakdown, the outlining process is, in every step, joyful and full of sparkle I can’t get enough of.
Consider the following as a peek inside what could easily be the most fun you’ve had as a writer. Now, don’t get me wrong. Outlining isn’t for everyone. I do know a small few writers who can manage to follow the thread of their story from beginning to end with all subplots firmly in place in their first pass. I’m in awe of such talent and have only accomplished it in short story form, not full novel. Nor would I want to attempt it, to be honest, when the format I use makes my writing life so easy it’s a delight.
First benefit: attachment. When I’m outlining, I’m slowly building from the seed of the idea into layers of information and plotting, rather than sitting down and writing out a giant scene (or scenes), making it 10 or 20K into the work before realizing I’ve painted myself into a corner and am now forced to delete the bulk of the job and start again. Horrifying. By building the story, plot point by conflict by character trait, I allow myself the clear and concise vision of what is coming before committing whole heartedly to the thing. It’s awesome and liberating and leaves me with goosebumpy shivers I can’t wait to feel every time I sit down to outline.
Second benefit: editing. My content editor loves me. LOVES. I love me, too. Imagine being able to follow a plan, to write a book from a template of your own creation (no unoriginality or formulas here!) in a way you can see exactly where plot holes might lurk in wait to swallow your story whole. Or having a—dare I say—easy time with your edits because, lo and behold, the story is actually complete. Finally, the delighted response from your editor when he or she discovers you’ve done a large majority of their work for them. Priceless.
Third benefit: time. No more waiting for the muse to strike. No need. The entire story is written, you just need to sit down and fill in the blanks (Procrastination is, however, up to you to deal with). Using my method, I’m able to outline and write two books a month when I’m feeling ambitious (my record is three). And yes, according to my readers, they are good, thank you.
As writers, there are times (more often than not) when we’re taught what we do is hard. Painful, angst-filled, a struggle, and that we suck at it so much, why do we bother? I choose to change that way of thinking, starting with what I can do to make my life as a writer easier. Not only loving what I write, but embracing everything to do with the process, including outlining and editing. This job has enough pitfalls. Why not grasp every advantage?
That doesn’t mean you have to do what I do. Exploring method is half the fun. Sometimes something as simple as a beat sheet (taken from screenwriting) that breaks the story down into the three acts of a complete story is enough. Or, if you’re like me, a detailed paragraph per chapter might be your cup of tea. No matter your skill set or level of accomplishment, an outline can be a valuable tool for your writer’s box of tricks.
Now, if only there were more hours in the day…
About Patti Larson
Patti Larsen is an award-winning author with a passion for the paranormal, now with many books in happy publication and her best-selling Hayle Coven Novels re-releasing in book stores everywhere. She lives in beautiful Prince Edward Island, Canada, with a patient husband, six demanding cats and a Gypsy Vanner gelding, Fynn.
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Patti has generously offered a signed copy of Girl Incredible as a prize for one commenter. All you need to do to be entered is comment on this post. The winner will be chosen by a random number generator on March 31st. (Only one entry is allowed per person, and you must be a signed-up member of the challenge in order to qualify.)