Outlining the next book – the easy way

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.

Reading DeLint

I have been reading Charles DeLint again lately. One of his later books, The Painted Boy, is a particular favorite. I like the shape changing that occurs, and how it is tied to a family legacy and responsibility. It has a multicultural layer, with the inevitable clash of cultures, however, what intrigues me is the way DeLint talks about things that draw people together, the ways in which they find connection in the pursuit of service to their chosen community. This story stands alone, away from the world of Newford, yet it echoes a bunch of the themes present in those stories.

MoonheartI was enjoying myself so much reading The Painted Boy, I decided to go back to some of the earlier works that spoke to me. I am currently re-reading Moonheart by DeLint. The online version has lovely illustrations, which are a happy addition to the original work. I first read Moonheart in 1987 when I was traveling for the first time. It seemed, at the time, that the journey of the protagonist, Sara, was echoed by my own journey at the time. I remember thinking that the traveler sees things more clearly because they are ‘out of context’ and cannot help but engage from a place of stillness. I recall thinking that if I could ‘act from the listening place’ that ‘right action’ may follow. I’m not sure how well I did in comparison with my fictional role model, but it sure made for good reading.

In reading the stories again, I find I am looking for the familiar threads that run through them. Along the way, I am discovering things I missed the first time around. I had not remembered there were so many threads of government agencies tampering, or attempting to, with the paranormal for instance. That added to the tension of the story by racking up a body count to contrast against the much more thoughtful actions of our newly talented heroine. The obstacles against her were not only paranormal, but physical. There were many levels to the layers of conflict. Nice job.

After this, I think I’ll give another couple of his early works another read. He’s the master of weaving together urban fantasy. I particularly recommend ‘Riddle of the Wren’ and ‘Moonheart’ for new readers. Check out his amazon author page.

Now I’m going to dive back into Moonheart.