The Writer’s Cricket: Outlines

And always let your outline be your guide! Yes, that’s where I was going with the title.

tumblr_mmjezkIYnP1s5e2mwo1_500

Hey, that sounds about right for writing too. Anyhow! I want to talk about outlines. If you’re a pantser and you’re not interested, well, maybe give it a read anyway? I’ve already talked about this to a lesser extent, so this will be short. Today I want us to build an outline together. It pays to be organized. You’ll find that you write faster and will reach your word count sooner. I know this from experience. If your novel is one that jumps between periods of time, or has flashbacks or flash forwards, this will come in handy. So, the basic template. First, I title and date my outline. The reason I date it is so that I know what my most recent outline is. As I make changes to my outline I make a new copy each time. I like to keep a hold of my old outline in case I decide I don’t like the new change or I want to implement something I took out in a new way or to a new place. That being said, title and date your outline!

Example Book Title Outline (04-25-2016)

As an example of saving this outline, I would use the name EBT_out_04252016.doc. This immediately tells me which book it is, that it’s an outline, and the date it was created so I can identify my latest one. Now, I don’t change the date on it if I’m making small changes such as to spelling or punctuation. Next, lets decide the structure of your novel. Are you going to use parts? Chapters? Dates like a journal? For this example, I’m going to do the outline of a journal format novel using parts.

Example Book Title Outline (04-25-2016)

PART ONE

May 26th, 1977

Next, we need to decide the important elements in each scene. And also, be sure to allow for plenty of space between scenes. I use all capital letters for each part marker so I can identify the breaks easily. It may create a longer document, but the extra spaces make it easier to read and the different scenes distinct. So, back to the things important to keep track of in each scene. Well, it’s a journal so who it’s to and from are important. As well as where and when, the weather, and any holidays.

Example Book Title Outline (04-25-2016)

PART ONE

May 26th, 1977
From: Anna
To: Bethany
Where: New York, New York
When: late night, after Anna’s big fight with Todd
Weather: Raining

Alright! We’ve established our scene. Of course add and subtract to your heart’s desire, but following the who, what, when, where, why rule can guide you. Next, we’ll build the actual scene. We determined our setting, now let’s determine what happens within. I’ve determined for my example that Todd is Anna’s husband and she’s writing to her best friend from childhood Bethany.

Example Book Title Outline (04-25-2016)

PART ONE

May 26th, 1977
From: Anna
To: Bethany
Where: New York, New York
When: late night, after Anna’s big fight with Todd
Weather: Raining
I. Anna locks herself up in the master bedroom after an exhausting fight with her husband, Todd. He yells at her to open up from the other side, banging on the door. Overwhelmed by the insistent screaming, she opens their closet and shuts herself inside.
II. It’s cool. It’s dark. Todd’s screams are muffled by the insulation of the walls and thick racks of clothes. Without light, Anna stumbles and knocks over a box. Concerned only with clearing her head, she slides down and hugs her knees. Her mind clears. She is able to focus.
III. Time passes. Todd’s yelling has ceased. Anna remains in the closet and stands to stretch the stiffness from her joints. She fumbles for the light string and yanks on it. The light pierces her dilated pupils. She shields her face with her hand. Her eyes drop down to the box and its spilled contents at her feet.
IV. Letters contained in envelopes of varying shapes and sizes are scattered. She knows the curvature of the handwriting by heart. She kneels and collects the opened letters. Her finger runs across the return address. She hasn’t written to her childhood friend Bethany for many years and decides it’s as good a time as any to start.
V. Anna pulls out her old stationary stuffed in the box with the letters and begins to write. “Dear Bethany…”

And there you have it. A strong scene. I have found if I haven’t written a scene yet, I get very detailed. It’s a miniature scene in itself. I’m sure you can tell I got into it a little bit and focused on details, but I do that in my regular outlines as well.  Don’t fret over the length. Determine what you want to happen in the scene. Write it from start to finish. Later on you can determine if the start should be later or the end sooner. I hope this has been helpful in building an outline.

Be sure to check out my World Building Series for more. (I’m sorry, I hate plugs, but all the people who know what they’re doing insist I do.) And as a side note, I’ve included a coupon code at Smashwords to download my novel, Dragon Bloode: Covet, for free when it releases. It’s good until July 17th (one month after release). Coupon Code: ZT57S And tell your friends! And stuff. And things. Until next time!

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s