When I was a writing newbie, a critique partner introduced me to the 3-act play.
He had gone to a conference where the instructor spoke at great lengths on the subject. My CP kindly sent me a copy of his notes.
His notes were so structured and detailed I immediately saw a pattern on how the play developed. It also gave me a basis for creating an outline. I started with a nugget of an idea. Like a seed, I let it sprout, one leaf at a time.
Maria's Outline Tips
• Start with a blurb: I know a lot of people do the blurb last, but I do it first. I want to know how I would pitch this. Not only does it give me the tone of the novel, but also a clear understanding on where the conflict lies.
• Know how I want it to end: I know what the conflict is (from the blurb). Now I decide how it needs to end. There's nothing specific yet. 'Hero beats bad guy.' 'Heroine gets her man.' That kind of thing.
• Decide how many chapters I'll need: I tend to write short chapters. I know for the average 80k book, I will need a minimum of 35-40 chapters.
• Blurb the chapters: Every chapter gets a two or three line sentence diagramming what happens. There must be a conflict and there must be a resolution -- or a segue to the next conflict. For me, this is the most important aspect on how I outline.
Every chapter must have an obstacle. If I can't identify the hurdle, then the chapter has failed. It isn't moving to the next, more challenging problem leading to the black moment.
When I finish, I will have 35+ chapter headings with a two line description for each chapter.
These little pods of information keep me honest. I know the story is always moving toward its inevitable conclusion, yet it gives me total freedom of creativity when I write the actual story.
Fooled you with this post, didn't I? LOL.
I don't write a lot of 'writing mechanics' posts, but Elana Johnson suggested today's topic because she was looking for ideas on how to outline. Elana has like a billion gazillion readers and she'll probably get more ideas on outlining than she needs, but this is my take.
--and I needed a topic! Thanks, Elana.
My system is easy-peasy, especially for my cluttered brain.
Writers: Do you outline? Do you have any tips you'd like to share?
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