We have a wonderful Craft of Writing post for you today about the benefits of outlining and how to do it. Casey Griffin, who is celebrating a new release, is here to show us how. Check out her SECRETS OF A RELUCTANT PRINCESS below!
5 Steps to Building an Outline – By Casey GriffinThe most important tool that I’ve learned to use as a writer is the outline. The more organized you are while writing the story, the less time you waste rearranging chapters and writing scenes that will ultimately not make the final cut. Or if you prefer to just let the words flow and edit afterward, then an outline will make the editing process a lot smoother. So it doesn’t matter if you’re a pantser or a diehard outliner, at some point in the process of writing a novel, you’ll need to use this tool.
Whether you use an outline before you write your first draft or after, it will save you time and prevent you from pulling out your hair. If you want to be a full-time novelist, the more efficient you are, the more novels you produce, which will keep your name out there more regularly, selling more books, gaining new fans, etc, etc. So how do create an outline (and keep those luxurious locks)?
1. Make a List:
You’re not going to know exactly what your novel looks like at first, so jot down anything at this point to get those ideas flowing.
- Start by listing the events you want to take place in your novel
- Keep the ideas general, mostly descriptions of relatively major events
- They don’t necessarily have to be in order at this stage
- Use as few words as possible to convey the idea (it’s very basic at this point)
2. Organize into Sequence:
Now that the general story is in front of you, it’s easier to logically work through the book, to see where plot holes lie, or if, logistically, certain things just have to happen before others do.
- This is the time to rearrange the events of your story
- Sticky notes or cue cards work great for this stage.
- Write down each major event on a separate piece of paper or cut up the list you already have
- Now rearrange them like puzzle pieces until it all fits together the way you want in order to form the bigger picture.
3. Flesh out into Chapters:
Now that you have your sequence of events in order, you can group them together into scenes or chapters. It’s not always as easy as having one event per chapter. This part can really make or break your pacing.
- Group the events together to control your pacing. Something needs to happen in each chapter to move the story forward.
- Make sure each chapter doesn’t end on a “yawn” moment. Leave the reader wanting more with a cliffhanger.
- You may find you need to go back to step two and rearrange the events
- Make it realistic. Some events are so huge that it might take two or three chapters just to cover what’s going on (like a battle scene). Or maybe you’ve got one little event that might only take three pages to get through. Only your outline can tell you what feels right to you.
- It’s amazing how freeing it is to use separate pieces of paper, because you can move them around and it doesn’t feel permanent. Besides, if a chapter just isn’t working, you can completely jumble the order and you might discover a whole new (and inspiring) way to write your novel.
4. Add in the Details:
Let’s face it, there’s no way you’ve made it to this point without getting distracted by all the shiny details, the wonderful gems that spark your excitement to just get started already! You don’t want to ignore these because what if you forget them by the time it comes to jotting them down?
- Any time throughout the outline process you can jot little details down as they come to you, but set them aside until this stage
- You can keep it simple like “red dress” as long as that will jog your memory, or it can be a detailed four-page conversation that you just had to write down when inspiration struck.
- Now simply insert them into the scenes that you imagine them happening in
- You may want to start saving these notes in a word document on the computer. It makes it easier to find them later, and you can save your progress in case a strong wind comes through and blows your outline away.
5. Do it All Over Again:
The outline process isn’t something you do just once. I find I have to revisit it over and over again. It’s especially useful to go over if you come across “writer’s block” or if you’ve taken a brief hiatus from your project.
An outline is never set in stone. It can be revised as often as you find the story needs it. It is a guideline, a tool. It’s not something that should hinder the creative process, but rather help focus it. So use it over and over again in any way that works best for you.
Remember: the outline never lies. If you skip certain parts, it might be because you’re afraid of the truth, like there’s a gaping hole that you want to ignore. But your outline can help find and solve those problems long before you fall headfirst into those holes.
ABOUT THE BOOKSecrets of a Reluctant Princess
by Casey Griffin
At Beverly Hills High, you have to be ruthless to survive…
Adrianna Bottom always wanted to be liked. But this wasn’t exactly what she had in mind. Now, she’s in the spotlight…and out of her geeky comfort zone. She’ll do whatever it takes to turn the rumor mill in her favor—even if it means keeping secrets. So far, it’s working.
Wear the right clothes. Say the right things. Be seen with the right people.
Kevin, the adorable sketch artist who shares her love of all things nerd, isn’t exactly the right people. But that doesn’t stop Adrianna from crushing on him. The only way she can spend time with him is in disguise, as Princess Andy, the masked girl he’s been LARPing with. If he found out who she really was, though, he’d hate her.
The rules have been set. The teams have their players. Game on.
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ABOUT THE AUTHORCasey Griffin can often be found at comic conventions on her days off from her day job, driving 400 ton dump trucks in Northern Alberta, Canada. As a jack of all trades with a resume boasting registered nurse, English teacher, and photographer, books are her true passion. Casey is a 2012 Amazon Breakthrough Novel finalist, and is currently busy writing every moment she can.
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