Monday, April 18, 2011

O: Ode to the Outline

On April 11, author Aprilynne Pike participated in a conference call with David Farland's Writer's Groups (learn more here). Aprilynne Pike is the author of books such as WINGS, SPELLS, and ILLUSIONS, which if I'm reading this correctly, will be available in 15 days! Check out her website here and tell me you don't want a fancy aqua tutu too!

During the conference call, Aprilynne discussed with listeners her tips and tricks on creating an outline for your story. It was so simple and yet, she presented a way of drafting a story that I hadn't heard. Her outline technique had order to it and if your outlines look anything like mine, the key element missing is order. Arrows pointing to sections two pages before, scribbles, notes in the margins, and large blocks of white space that say [major plot point 2 here].

In order to see the basics of Aprilynne's outline, you really should click over, but here's a nutshell:

It involves a sheet of paper, your story's timeline, some nominal counting skills, and your imagination. The website also offers an MP3 version of the conference call, but as of this exact moment, the link wasn't quite ready.

Anyway, the only reason I didn't bust out a new outline for my story over the weekend is because I'm anal and need to use a sheet of computer paper, not lined paper. Seeing as I might be the only wanna-be author without a printer at home, I had to wait until work this morning.

But trust you me, I will be counting out my hash marks over lunch and working on my new outline!

You tell me: How do you draft your story? Do you outline, or are you a 'pantser'? (As in, fly by the seat of.)


  1. Technically I plan an outline, but like you, it is so convoluted and chaotic that I might as well have pansted the whole thing anyway.

    I'll have to check out Aprilynne's method. I'm not a huge fan of her books, but I've always enjoyed her blog. She's got a beautiful personality, so I'd be happy to learn how she manages it. Because I suck at outlining.

  2. I outline lots and lots, and have begun combining James Scott Bell's approach (three arcs and two no-turning-back) points with Larry Brooks'. I need order to outline, otherwise I feel I'm not done yet.

  3. Ohhh, Claudie! Thanks for the tips. Off to goggle the names for more information.

  4. I outline, as Larry Brooks says, to avoid random acts of narrative. I became convinced of the importance of outlining after getting heavily into critiquing and editing for others. After awhile, I could spot the pantsers without asking. It was the meandering stories that never hit any of the major points in the classical 3 act structure - aspects of story that have been a part of dramatic structure for several thousand years. Of course, we're talking newer to intermediate writers. It's less obvious with the more experienced pantsers, perhaps because they are better able to recognize what isn't working and not insist on following a deadend street to the actual deadend.

  5. I love outlines!! I'm such a nerd! I don't have any reason to make outlines these days but if I did, you can bet I'd do it.

    I'm not an aspiring writer, I just like reading your blog 'cause you're Trixie-pie and also because well, I like it!


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