How I Learned to Love The Outline: Guest Post by Kat Ellis!

I know, I know. I’ve been all silent-like. And I owe you folks a book review (of a book I haven’t had a moment to sit down and read…)

To make up for this long period of deathly quietness here on the ole blog, I’m going to let someone else fill it up with their own wordsplosion. Why? Because she’s got an excess of Awesome and needed to get some of it out. It’s a very serious health condition. We’re raising awareness so people like her don’t have to live with the burden of making the human race worthwhile.

So here she is, Kat Ellis. A very good friend of mine who is incredibly talented and has nice handles on her coattails to allow me to latch on for dear life as she becomes famous for writing books like PURGE. If you don’t check her out, I promise you’ll cry about it later. She’s usually either roosting at her blog, or teasing innocent writers on Twitter. Either way, you should go ahead and harass her. Tell her I sent you.

That’ll teach her to use glitter on me when I specifically—Oh. I’m sorry. Inner monologue again…

On Outlining
When my good pal Ian Forbes Wolfby-Hermington Hiatt extended an invitation to his blog, I asked him what I should write a post about – and he immediately said I should write about my Process. I eeped and nodded.

I have only one Process which I now stick to religiously when writing: detailed outlining. It’s very complex (it’s not), and the whole thing came to me in a dream (it did not come to me in a dream). My outlining process is what makes me a plotter rather than a pantser, and as everyone knows, a writer must fall into one camp or the other – they’re the rules. But my outlines are actually incredibly useful for formulating a synopsis and query, so if you struggle with those or hit the dreaded brick walls when writing first drafts, detailed outlining could help.

I came by this method when I googled Beat Sheeting and apparently misunderstood what it is. And is about. And what a beat and a sheet are. Yeah. Here’s what you do to write a really useful outline. (Note to pantsers: This is useless to you. Now go pants with yo’ bad self.)

  • Open a new doc, write 5 “Part” headings, numbered 1-5. Each of these will end with a Significant Event.
  • In between, put in at least 5 “Chapter” headings for each “Part” – not numbered for now. It’s easier to just add in the numbers as you go along, but as you have the headings laid out ready for you, you’ll end up with at least 25 chapters. I usually work to the premise that each chapter will have around 3k words, so this will leave you with a novel of 75k, or thereabouts. You can of course adjust the number of chapters to accommodate your usual chapter length or whatever you like.
  • Now start filling in the blanks. Write 1 or 2 paragraphs to summarize the events in each chapter. Seeing the “Part” heading looming helps me to focus on the Significant Event that will drive the plot forward. This can be anything – the MC discovering the murderer’s identity, a plane crash, whatever. 
  • Whittle, shift, revise and generally tinker with the outline until it looks like the bones of a story. Then you have something you can not only follow as you’re writing your manuscript, but can also edit further to become your synopsis, and even the basis for your query as you should have the main plot and themes laid out ready for you.

See, didn’t I say it was easy? Happy outlining!

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3 Responses to How I Learned to Love The Outline: Guest Post by Kat Ellis!

  1. Bridget says:

    Your method reminds me of a no nonsense combination of the beat sheet and the snowflake method, sounds great. 😀

  2. Kat Ellis says:

    This comparison pleases me greatly. Though I will admit, I had to run and look up 'Snowflake Method' and was both surprised and disappointed that the results Google gave me weren't x-rated 😉

  3. Bridget says:

    Lmao x-rated snowflake method!! There's an ice elemental paranormal romance waiting to happen.

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