Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Easy. Breezy. Beautiful. Outlining.

I just met a writer buddy around my age (WOOT!) and he's like my literary soul mate. We like the same books, deplore the same things, love the same authors and we even have a weird penchant for chocolate bars while writing. Ah yes, I think I'm in love. <3

But despite our frightening similarities, he is terribly introverted and dislikes blogging, facebook, sunshine and outlining. I understand the first two, considering they're addicting and time consuming--the sun I kinda get (to a degree. See what I did there?) and I definitely don't comprehend the last one. Why would anyone despise outlining? What's that? You say it's difficult and saps the enthusiasm out of actually writing the work? Nonsense!

Outlining is an art, and one that isn't difficult or a writing-juice-sapper; it's as easy as applying Covergirl makeup, especially when you know how. You'll be surprised how many women don't know how to apply makeup. First you have to use a base and lightly dust the cheeks, then you dip the brush do I know this? Ahem! As I was saying: outlining is actually quite easy and through the years I've come up with an 8 step system to planning the main storyline while still leaving things open for the muse to show me some love while I write. I mean, who plots a course and doesn't change direction once a better opportunity arises? So I don't unerstand when folks claim there's no spontaneity in plotting--you don't diligently stick to the thing, infact, half of what you outline is either foregone or revamped, because you always get better ideas as you start writing.         

My eight simple rules for dating my teenage daughter outlining are:

1 Inciting Incident

What is the incident/problem which sets your story in motion?

What is your MC’s goal, quest, problem s/he needs to overcome?


2 Plot Point 1

What is the first obstacle, roadblock, conflict your MC must face en route to his/her goal?


3 Plot Point 2

What is the second obstacle, roadblock, conflict your MC must face en route to his/her goal? This shows your MC in increasing difficulty and displays the ramping up of tension.


4 Climax A

What sets things in motion for the big show-down?


5 Climax B

What conflict/tension/precariousness happens to make us wait and wonder? This is the point where things could go either way…


6 Climax C

This is where the excrement hits the ventilation device. The ‘final showdown’.


7 Denouement

Everything becomes clear. The world makes sense again. Story questions are resolved.


8 Resolution

Easy. Breezy. Beautiful. Covergirl. 

That wasn't so hard, right? Fill in the blanks for each point and watch your story unravel before your eyes. It's a very effective way to turn the tides when you're lost in the middle, or if you have no idea what to do next. It works for me, and J.K. Rowling, so trust that it will work for you. 

Happy plotting!


PT Dilloway, Superhero Author said...

I do some amount of outlining, but not to that extent. I've never been a big fan of any formulas like that. At some point you kind of got to let things flow naturally.

T.D. McFrost said...

I like it because I hate being stuck and having a story that vaguely makes sense. I also write high fantasy, so I need to SEE where I'm going or I'll make a gaint mess of things.

I guess it depends on genre as well? I don't think I'll plot a contemporary or an erotica. Yeah, I guess it is all about genre. :)

I'm a superhero author too PT. ;)

Kyra Lennon said...

Loving your 8 step plan! However, I'm afraid I agree with your friend on this point. I begin with a basic plot, but the more things I plan in advance, the less I want to write the story.

Sabrina A. Fish said...

I outline. The also write high fantasy and there is no way I could do that without an outline. My outline is a bit different than yours, however. It looks more like this:

Inciting Incident
Plot point 1
Twist 1
Twist 2
Plot point 2

I find the twists help keep the middle from flopping!

Great post!

T.D. McFrost said...

Everyone has various ways of doing things. This is just my simple way of outlining.

I must say, I don't ever stick to the outline 'cause I get better ideas along the way. I think this is the same for all us ouliners. :D

Hildred said...

I also don't outline, ha. (I've also never worn make-up, so there you go?) Well, I do a very, very basic one, but for the most part I already know everything in my head. So short of getting amnesia, I'm doing okay.

And I also write epic series fantasy ;)

Michael Offutt, Tebow Cult Initiate said...

I outline and then fill in the gaps with pantsing.

Very original post. I like it.

T.D. McFrost said...


I know right? Writing fantasy without a plan is not easy, especially when you have to make your world building make sense.

I'm glad I'm not the only plotter amidster pansters. LOL. (Not that pansting(?)is a bad thing. :D

Hildred: Trad me your memory skills and my oulining days will be over. :D

Michael: That's how it's done! See everyone, there's a guy with a plan. Ha!

Esther Spurrill-Jones said...

I used to hate writing outlines for essays in English class. Oftentimes, I wouldn't bother unless the teacher required that we hand in the outline too (mean teacher). In that case, I would write an outline after I had finished writing the essay. lol

For worldbuilding, I'll write notes, but I don't really consider that to be outlining since it doesn't plot out the story--it just gives the history, geography, etc.

I usually let story ideas percolate in my brain for awhile before I start writing. By the time I begin to write, I usually have somewhat of an "outline" in my head. This does, of course, change as I write.

Allison said...

haha you are amusing. I like your 8 step plan! I think outlining is great, but I also think that some writers just don't work well with outlines. It depends on the person, and how their brain works best.

Allison (Geek Banter)

ryan field said...

I have had books published with and without doing outlines. It really all depends on whether or not the concept is "coming" to me. With books where the concept doesn't come, I need an outline. Actually, I depend on a chapter by chapter outline.

And publishers still do ask for outlines...even if you published with them many times before they will stil request and outline before offering a contract. For most it's a chapter by chapter outline. And in the end I do usually wind up going back to the outline to check something.

But with me it all depends. I once wrote a hetero romance novel with a pen name for a project in collaboration with a TV home Shopping Network and I only had a three week dealine to write it. And my outline came in very handy during that stressful time.

jaybird said...

I'm glad you met your literary soul mate. My brother is a much better writer than me, and has an amazing sci-fi book, but he is so anti-social media, he refuses to join FB or blog. It's frustrating to me. But that's just who he is. Quiet and reserved. And like you with your new friend, I had to come to respect his need for privacy.

The 8 step plan is a great one! Stick to what works for you, right?

Oh, and this girl knows her way around a make-up brush...I am always putting make-up on my friends :0

DEZMOND said...

sounds like a good plan brother McFrosty :)

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