Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Outlining - Day 1

Normally, I'd be starting fresh with my outline, however I've already outlined most of my new WIP. So, today (day 1 of my Year of Writing!) I'll be transferring my wall outline into Scrivener.

Here is a visual of my Wall Outline:

My previous outlining skills involved many index cards, many tacks, and two cork boards. That was when I wrote screenplays. Since I've come back to prose, I felt that I was dealing with much more story and details. The index cards didn't work as well for me any more.

Then one night I was watching a Jackson Pearce live show. If you've never heard of Jackson Pearce, crawl out from under that rock and go visit her website ;-)
So, during a particular live show, Jackson illustrated how she outlines - from idea to starting pages. She color codes with Post-its. (I'd link to the video, but live shows are live. Sorry, readers)
I was hooked. As a visual learner and organizer, this was perfect for me (not to mention the super ease of moving Post-its around).
I don't believe I remember her color codes and process exactly, but this is how I've worked it into my outlining process. And the color coding doesn't matter anyway, as long as you're consistent.

As for my outline, the colors you see in the picture are coded as follows:
Pink= plot scenes
Green = character & scene happenings
Blue = bigger character elements
Purple = questions, story arcs, miscellaneous

Now, to further breakdown my outline: I wanted to plot (pink Post-Its) the story against minute points I learned in screenwriting. The easiest version you can find on-line or in a bookstore is Blake Snyder's Beat Sheet from his book: Save the Cat!.
(This is not the same method I used in screenwriting, because I came from the lesser detailed Hero's Journey school of thought adapted for movies, however Blake's minute points are very similar.) 
And since I wanted something with a bit more detail, similar to the Beat Sheet, I started to use that until I discovered a Blake Snyder Beat Sheet adapted for prose. OhMyPlotting, friends! It helped so much. And guess what? I have a link for that: Liz Write's Books site.

Also worth noting at this point: I've watched a few of Maggie Stiefvater's vlogs, read some of her posts on writing, and attended a twitter chat, in which she answered reader questions. I'm not sure exactly where I heard/read her say this... I'll go check twitter in a second to see if it was there*... but she has stated that a novel is = 30 scenes that average 2k-3k words each. Of course she doesn't mean that each scene literally has to be 2k-3k, but I agree it is a good starting place to outline with around 30 big scenes.
And do I need to say it? Yes, I do.
If you are not familiar with Maggie Stiefvater, go get familiar with her work, musings, advice, funnies, etc.: Maggie Stiefvater's site.

*Yay! It was on twitter. I favorited it for safe keeping!

You'll note she doesn't mention the 2k-3k words per scene here, but that was somewhere else. Probably a vlog. But, I promise she's mentioned it. 

All in all, these techniques have given me the tools to create a working outline. Sometimes there are spaces in the outline (like the one above, and another you can't see), but I'm okay with that. I know story can change once I start drafting, and I allow myself that freedom. As long as I have something to work with, I can get started.

How about you, lovely readers? Have any great outlining tips you want to share?

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