I was asked today how to outline a work in progress by one of our new mamawriters. With NaNoWriMo on the way, no time like the present to take a time out and discuss the benefits of plotting, and adhering to an outline.
This is not a formula, per se… but some things you can think on. I don’t think in terms of outline. I do think in terms of prose — so for me, writing a full synopsis from the get go is the best way to find out what happens along the way to the end.
- Identify theme of story (Man vs. man, Man vs. nature, Man vs. self).
- Put your whole story synopsis into a 3-5 page, single spaced tale. Hit the high notes. Think five paragraph essay – introduce your H/H in first paragraph. Introduce their wants. (Hero wants X, Heroine wants Y, Antagonist wants Z). Make notations as to first glance, first kiss, first *ahem* depending on your book… first cup of coffee or first date or first night together (in mine, it leads up to the ultimate statement of true love… a marriage proposal, whatever – I write inspy, I’m allowed to be coy. My fellow romance writers can explain the differences on importance of other encounters. *ahem*
- Make sure each paragraph has conflict, and that the conflict builds on something that happens previously, and leads toward the ultimate climax. Make sure that you’re dropping clues toward your h/h’s journey along the way, how they’re getting what they wanted in the beginning, & what they want in the middle.
- Toward the end, you’ll have your climactic scene, where the H/H win, they receive what they ultimately desire, and then your denouement, when all settles into a HEA.
NOW, separate your synopsis into a word doc, where each paragraph is a note toward your plot progression. Give each one a Chapter #, and off you go! You should have about 30-40 or so chapters using this method. You can give yourself wordcount goals, or what have you — and if your plot goes pear shaped, you can figure out how to rein your characters back, or revise the remaining paragraphs later. The best part is, each paragraph is a prompt for the next time you pick up the WIP.
Oh, and do your best not to edit along the way. Use the 5 minute editing rule! I’m digging that one, discussed today on www.mamawriters.com
Good luck, and happy writing! 🙂
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“Mara!” Her voice choked; the raspy words
burned like fire.
She searched the scene on hands and knees
in the silver moonlight. Lord, not Mara. Where is
she? She’s just a girl…please!
Footsteps crunched on the gravel-filled dirt.
Nowhere to hide, RuthAnne willed herself
invisible. Her hand closed around a fist-sized
rock. The bandit wouldn’t take her without a
He knelt down beside her. A large, rough
hand cupped her cheek in an all too familiar way.
“You’re awake. Thank God.”
With a ragged battle cry, RuthAnne lunged at
her would-be attacker with the stone, cracking
him just above the shoulder. He shied away from
the blow, and the lump of granite glanced off him.
With little effort, he peeled it from her fingers.
“You’re coming with me, whether you like it or
The brigand picked her up like a child and
marched her off to her doom. Terrified, she fought
and bucked while he carried her. Tears of
frustration streamed down her face; her hair, a
mass of golden curls, tumbled loose about her as
she thrashed in his arms. RuthAnne hammered
at him with ineffectual fists. He carried her so
easily, as if she were feather light, though he did
pin her arms close against her body.
“I’m not going to hurt you. I’m here to help.”