I’ve been reading K M Weiland books on outlining lately and decided to give it a try. Previously, I’ve used mind-mapping, that is putting the name of the book in the middle of a page, then throwing out everything on the page I know about the subject, like a mad brachiate tree-like structure. It got all the concepts onto one page, but not in a linear fashion.
This new strategy asks questions for a non-fiction book like
- What is this book about
- Who is the book written for (primary and secondary audiences)
- What will they learn from the book
- What are the steps along the way?
Getting these questions answered snapped the outline into place and had me writing 5,000 words in a single day. It wasn’t a detailed outline, but the structure gave me a framework to put the things I wanted to communicate into a good order. Moved it right along.
For fiction, on the other hand, I needed to work out
- Elevator speech about the book – one sentence
- What is the inciting event (what puts events into motion)
- What is the main story theme?
- What happens at the 25%, 50% (climax), 75% and ending of the book
- In each of the secitons above, what are the main scenes. What happens in each one?
And then I figure out what each character has to learn. How they grow. What are their obstacles? Then I put those into the scenes. That really moved stuff around for me. It turned out my sub plot was actually my main plot, and what I thought was the main story of the book was actually part of the theme of the series. It had me discard about 10,000 words, keep 15,000 and re-write a much tighter plot. Yay.