Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Tips: Outline the Hell Out of Things

My outlining thinking face *
I do all of this outlining with pen and paper before I sit down to type.  Pencil actually works better. I do this because it allows me to completely focus on the story. I don't worry about spelling, grammar, punctuation, formatting, or tools. The focus is completely on the story.

It usually starts with idea sheets. These are just page after page of random ideas that will eventually resolve into character, settings, and plots. These are free form bullet lists on anything.

All of this is written by hand.

The Process Begins:

1) Fill in the blanks:  When [INCITING INCIDENT OCCURS], a [SPECIFIC PROTAGONIST] must [OBJECTIVE], or else [STAKES].

2) Write a short 3 act outline with a paragraph describing each act:
   a. The Setup
   b. Rising Action
   c. The Resolution

3) Write a short 9 act outline with a paragraph describing each act::
     Act 1—The Setup
     Act 2—Something Bad Happens 
     Act 3—Protagonist/Antagonist Identified
     Act 4—The push—door to Act 5—1-way door, no turning back.
     Act 5—Go for wrong goal
     Act 6—Reversal - It is the low point, reveals the Achilles heel of the nemesis.
     Act 7—Go for New Goal - The clock is ticking— Protagonist has a new plan.
     Act 8—Wrap it Up, New goal is achieved.
     Act 9 - The denouement. Closure. The End.

4) Write the 3 page outline in bullet points:
   a. Page 1: The Setup = Act 1, Act 2, Act 3
   b. Page 2: Rising Action = Act 4, Act 5, Act 6
   c. Page 3: The Resolution = Act 7, Act 8, Act 9

5) Write the Full Outline in bullet points:
   a. Each of the Nine Acts gets its own page.
      i. Chapters bullets are listed that will be in each act.
      ii. Scene bullets are finally listed within chapters.

6) I also create a character name spreadsheet, as I outline. Name, description, role in the story.

7) Three hole punch all these hand written pages and place them in a notebook binder. All this is done in longhand.

8) Enter all this into Scrivener. (more about Scrivener in future posts)

9) Write. Put the meat on the bones.

I find I never get writers block with this method. You never face a blank page to lock you up. Hammer through the first draft without stopping to revise anything to the end.

--Finish things.

*Author photo by Asher Roth


  1. I have 12 unfinished novels. This process may have just saved me.

  2. I'm impressed! I handwrite beginning ideas as well, but I like the structure you have here. Must talk at length!