Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The Great Fallback -- Outlining

Organizing your thoughts when planning a book project is often a daunting and confusing task. An outline can help solve that problem. So, you say, I'll make an do I get started? It's not really that unfamiliar. Think about school. Your teacher may have assigned you a chapter in the history text to outline. Outlining your book is like that, only in reverse. You don't have a book, yet.

What that involves is really rather simple. Start with a broad, skeleton. It could be just three major sections -- beginning, middle, and end. Then add several subsections to each for your scenes. Typing this in a word document works well because you will be able to expand each section as you add information. For supplementals to go along with your outline, I would suggest creating a plot line. Label it with the essential elements: exposition; conflict; rising action; climax; falling action; and resolution. Leave room for the details you will add to these elements. It's a great visual for you to continually refer back to. Even a timeline is a helpful tool. I've often created one the way I've done in the classroom: a big piece of poster paper taped on the wall to add events as I develop them. One more idea is using index cards with events. The advantage to these is that if you need to rearrange or shift your order of events, you can just switch the cards around.

Of course there are various approaches to this process. Some prefer to start with developing characters, at least the main ones. Creating a "resume" for each, complete with all the background info -- job, birth date, family, etc., and strengths, weaknesses, traits, i.e. just about anything you can think of to give them life, is essential. When the story hits a rut, these well-developed characters can help move it along. They will know what to do even if you don't!

All of these tools can implement the writing process. How and when you use them is the key. Overall, it's wise to use some organizational tool. To just dig in and start writing your story without knowing where you're going may lead you into the wilderness with no way out! Seriously, the "no-plan" method works for some, but I'd venture to say that it's rare.

Do you have a preference? Do you organize your ideas? Let's hear your thoughts.

No comments: