Growing an outline

Grrr… all this careful plotting (potting?) can really wear me down. My last two books I started from day one with an empty page and just wrote. That’s always the fun part, the background stuff can get frustrating. BUT. I’ve learned the hard way that if I don’t do some homework first I’ll end up rewriting the entire manuscript way too many times trying to fix all the mistakes I’ve made.

So rather than sitting down and just writing my way from point A to B, I’m ‘growing an outline’. This means that I’m imagining the ‘heart clutching moments’ in my book and writing them out, in no particular order. The idea is the create as many of these intense scenes as possible, abbreviate them and put them on flash cards (ie Moreanna kisses poisoned prince on a rainy rooftop overlooking the Gothic city of Budapest). It’s also really really important for me to work on the ending, just so my story doesn’t go completely off track. Once I finish this, I can move the scenes around and get a feel for the flow of the story. It’ll help me figure out which parts drag and which scenes just don’t fit.

I’ve also spent this morning working on subplots- just outlining the things that my supporting characters experience. To make sure the subplots complement the main story line I make sure they reflect the theme of my book. I think of them as little echoes of the big plot. Subplots are handy because they show the reader a slightly different perspective on your theme, they enrich things. I need to be careful however! To many subplots and I’ll bury the story. Even though I like to know everything about my supporting characters’ goals and motivations, I may or may not tell my readers. For me the best part of knowing the most about character’s lives is the way it helps me enrich these characters on the page.


About cjgosling

I paint, I sing, I walk in the rain. I'm clumsy and I love the smell of campfire. My head is full of imaginary things and the only thing I ever really want to do in life is write. My first book "Shadowlands: The Guardian" was released in Feb. 2011. The sequel is coming in 2012! View all posts by cjgosling

2 responses to “Growing an outline

  • Shannon

    I personally suck at outlines and try to keep them to a minimum. I am more like you and tend to shoot from the hip so to speak. Then when the rewrites begin I will add to the outline or come up with different scenes. Ultiamtley, after all your revisions, the story will still can be quite different from the original, even if you have a big complete outline.

  • Elle Strauss

    Sounds like you have a good technique going. I'm not great with outlines, though I need a rough plan about what I'm trying to do. Most of my ideas come in the process of writing it out.btw, can you email me? my computer crashed and I don't have your email address anymore. I have some good news to share.Loralee

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