To Outline or not to Outline…


Hey, there, you! 😀

Today’s topic is on outlining. I find that my writing turns out so much better (plus, I feel very organized) when I outline before I start writing.

 So, first off, what is outlining? It’s organizing your thoughts and ideas into chapters so that you’ll know what happens next if you get in a jam. 🙂

Why should I outline?

Instead of writing then going, “Oh, I had a brilliant idea! I’ll just work it into this chapter somewhere… somehow…” you’ll be able to insert it into the outline for future reference. You won’t feel like you need to get all the ideas into the story as you think of them.

Organization-wise, it is SO beneficial to me as I mentioned before!

Plus, if you have a certain formula you follow and incorporate into your novels, that’s a big help too! Instead of just aimlessly trying to slap together a good book, you incorporate dilemmas, disasters, deaths with a meaning, etc.

Do other writers use outlines?

Yes, ma’am/sir, they do! To name one successful person, we’ll look at Christopher Paolini, the author of the Inheritance series. Here’s what he has to say:

I read college-level courses on the subject, teaching myself about everything from plot structure to descriptions. All of this culminated four years ago, when I sat down and outlined the plot for a cycle of books. For weeks, I struggled to figure out every detail. Then, with everything ready, I began to write.

So, courtesy of the OYAN curriculum and my bestie, here is the outline I use (see the end of this post). But first, you need to know the difference between a disaster and a dilemma.

Disaster: could be a natural disaster such as an earthquake, landslide, tsunami, etc.

Dilemma: where the MC (main character) needs to choose between two equally bad things (like saving their best friend and kill their mom or let them both die – something like that).

Chapter Criteria
Chapter One – THE INCITING INCIDENT
<> Open with action: a fight, a new arrival, or trouble. Begin to reveal the Hero’s Ideal and establish a pre-story world. This chapter should include a major disaster for the Hero.

Chapter Two – PROMISES, PROPHECIES AND PREDICAMENTS
<> The Hero reacts to the disaster in Chapter One. Write in subtle hints about things to come, and include a disaster or a dilemma. The Hero should set a goal to set things back to the way they were before the disaster in Chapter One, and their reality should become farther from what they expected.

Chapter Three – EMBRACING DESTINY
<> In this chapter, the Hero accepts his destiny. The Hero should accept their destiny regardless of the cost. This chapter should include both a disaster and a dilemma. The Hero loses something or someone of value, and this cements his involvement against the Villain. The Hero crosses a “point of no return” in this chapter.

Chapter Four – THE NEW WORLD
<> This chapter includes a disaster. The Hero is drawn into a New World, and begins to take steps to fulfill the Story Goal. The Hero is also introduced to a test. In this chapter, the opposing forces (Villain vs. Hero) are balanced.

Chapter Five – THE MIDDLE CYCLE
<> The stakes are raised. The Hero forms a goal, and is forced to confront a fear. A surprise is revealed.

Chapter Six – FAILURE
<> This chapter includes both a plot twist and a disaster. The twist should shock your readers and be completely unexpected. The Hero realizes he has more to lose than he thought. The Hero fails miserably.

Chapter Seven – LESSONS
<> The Hero learns a lesson from his failure in Chapter Six, and discovers why he failed. The Hero forms a short term goal, but it is thwarted by the Villain. The Hero begins to use his exposure to his worst fear to equip himself for the Showdown.

Chapter Eight – ATONEMENT AND ACHIEVEMENT
<> This chapter is defined by a disaster or a dilemma. The Hero forms and fails in fulfilling a goal. The Hero begins to master the New World and achieves a major success. The Hero also attempts to make atonement for something in his past.

Chapter Nine – THE BLACK MOMENT
<> The Hero is faced by his most crushing, total defeat. He is offered a chance to retreat and go back to the way it was. A dilemma follows this defeat. The Hero hits rock bottom. The stakes are raised. Include another plot twist- either tragedy or grace. (If grace, make it the result of something the Hero did in a previous chapter – luck is not allowed)

Chapter Ten – THE COMING STORM
<> Failure to achieve the Story Goal should be almost certain. The Hero loses something of value. Tension steadily increases. This chapter is defined by both a disaster and a dilemma. Make the Hero appear to make the wrong choice. This chapter should be a race against time to achieve the Story Goal.

Chapter Eleven – THE SHOWDOWN
<> The Hero and the Villain square off in a deciding confrontation. Failure appears to be inevitable and the Hero is faced the the most difficult decision possible. The Story Goal is fulfilled, but not in the expected way. The fulfillment of the Story Goal costs more than expected, and the Hero loses something of value.

Chapter Twelve – DENOUEMENT
<> This chapter should be fueled by and tie together all the subplots and possibly return the Hero to the Old World. Add in a final unexpected plot twist.

I really hope this helps you out! 🙂

God bless!

Rana

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