Outlining…some of us love it…some hate it.
I admit, I fall into the “I love outlines” category, but I’ve had plenty of students who sit down, write their piece, and then go back to fill out the requisite outline. If you’re one of those, you might be asking “why bother with an outline?”
For a longer piece, outlines can help you keep your major plot line heading in a clear direction toward a climax and resolution, and they can help you weave in subplots.
If you’ve never used an outline, I encourage you to try it, especially for a longer piece. Before you panic about not knowing your Roman Numerals, know that you can create an entire novel outline without them. Really, you can.
Remember that in order to write well, you’ve got to read like a writer, so before we start on the outline, think of your favorite novel and its component parts.
It begins when the main character’s life changes in some major way. This is called the inciting incident and sets the story in motion.
Next, it’s made up of scenes. In each scene, the main character has some sort of goal they are trying to reach. Usually, something gets in the way of them reaching their goal, and the scene ends in a disaster for your character. This is a somewhat melodramatic way to plan, but it works. Remember that a disaster doesn’t have to be the end of the world. It could be the character just lost their keys or their homework. This type of basic scene has a goal, conflict, and disaster.
In another type of scene, your character may need a break from the action to make buy bupropion online canada some sort of decision about what they are going to do next. In this type of scene, they react to all that has happened, consider all their options and decide on their next goal. This scene would include a reaction, dilemma, and decision and is often referred to as a “sequel.”
In this way, the story moves forward until it reaches the climax which is when all the different story elements come to a head. The reader discovers how all the problems will be solved and the story heads to its resolution.
If you base your outline on the above structure, it would look something like this:
Inciting Incident – life changing event
Scene 1 – goal, conflict, disaster
Scene 2 – goal, conflict, disaster
Scene 3 – sequel scene – reaction, dilemma, decision (new goal for next scene)
Keep adding scenes of both types. If you get stuck, ask yourself how could you make your character’s life worse? Remember that each scene should add to the tension and build toward the climax.
Climax Scene(s) – the climactic scene will come about three-quarters of the way through the novel.
Resolution Scene(s) – The last scenes serve as the resolution where you tie up loose ends. The character will still have scene goals, but they will probably be much different here than they were prior to the climax.
How many scenes do you need? That depends on your story and your genre. My current work in progress has around seventy five to eighty scenes and its around 95,000 words.
Remember, this is a super basic outline but it works, or at least it worked for me.
Do you have any great strategies for outlining a longer piece? If so, share in the comments below.