Back in November I published a blog— (I really dislike the use of this word. it sounds like barf. BLAAUUGGHHHHHH! Am I right?)
–sorry, I wrote about Lisa Cron’s book Story Genius in THIS article. If you plan on being any kind of fiction writer, this will be your bible. It forces you to go in depth with your characters and story. I have discovered through this crazy writing process that I prefer to start with Story Genius after I get the basics out of the way.
Lisa plumbs the depths of your writerly brain and you find that a rough outline starts to form as if by magic. Great! You are now an Alchemist, creating something new out of two ordinary things (pen and paper, skin and plastic keyboard…whatever your medium). So what next?
Well now we struggle to flesh out the shiny new outline of course! Just because you have lexicon gold doesn’t mean you can let it sit there like a lumpy paper weight (haa….) I’ve tried to outline several different ways over the years. Pansting it never really worked but it gave me some wonderful one-liners of beautiful prose that fill me with pride even to this day. The basic bitch Three Act Story Structure that you can find every-freaking-where didn’t really give me enough to go on as far as definite plot points. It’s a better step forward than pantsing, at least for me, but I wanted something more detailed to follow. Forget Freytag Method (haven’t even attempted).
Enter AuthorTube. (YouTube that mainlines author/writer channels)
I found a gal on there a few years ago whose channel she named Katytastic and this video is the single most useful video I’ve ever found about outlining EVER. When I initially saw this video I didn’t pay it much mind. It seemed a little intense to have EVERY CHAPTER mapped out. (Aww, I was such an innocent little pantser back then.) Nothing against Discovery writing but this ingredient has a specific place in my noveling recipe now.
Katy does a twenty seven chapter, nine block, three act break down of her story. What’s great about the video is she not only breaks down every chapter into title and description, she does an example outline as well to show you how the flow is supposed to work. This time around, when I tried it, it worked wonders. It won’t for everyone and that’s okay. There’s no wrong way to write unless it’s not at all.
So this is what it looks like:
Katy’s looks slight different but the important bits are all here. This set up is going to turn your lump of raw golden brilliance into the the poignant prose you know your novel is supposed to be. You are injecting form and substance into your project now. This is where the fun bit begins.
I was having issues with my Faustus outline until I tired this method. I knew all the major points to hit but until I tried plugging them into the outline, I didn’t know which gem was supposed to go where and in what order. I discovered that certain beats I thought were supposed to happen later needed to be sooner for pacing purposes and that move left gaps that needed to be filled with…something. However, once I settled on placement, I took what I had already brainstormed and started trying to fit them into different places.
Should the Darkest Moment be when she’s taken into the Pens or when she finds out Zeizal is going to be assassinated?
Should the Midpoint be when her mother makes the announcement about the Sleeper Assassins or when she discovers the truth about her mother’s past?
Where’s the conflict in the first pinch point?
It was a bit of a surprise the points I became stuck at. Most of it was in the beginning right before the Midpoint, Act 2, Block 4. The whole thing was a mystery to me and I could have filled it with lots of meaningless melodrama but since I had already carved out a path for the characters to follow after that point, I just needed to decide which situations best led into those. (How do I hurt my darlings the most? MUAAHAAHAHAH!) It was at this point that I realized Katytastic’s Power Block Outline had done what it could for me and I needed to slip into my Pantsing Pants again.
It was more progress I had done on the book in months. I was just bursting with pride lemme tell ya.
Using the outline, I then used my tapping phalanges to flesh out the story. Once I was one a roll, I spirit fingered my way through the difficult bits, buffing the surface of the one or two sentence guidance and nudging pieces into place until I was happy with how it turned out. I made a note of the things I did not like and things to that needed changing before I moved on to the rough draft.
The next step is to flesh out the second half in order to create a basic rough draft, cut out the unnecessary bits and then start in on Scene Cards, an ancient writing art that is wholly a mystery to me. (I guess I should finish reading Story Genius, huh? Lisa talks about this too…)
*puts on my serious think-y face*
Let me know if this type of outline works out for you and where you got stuck. What did you realize while you were drafting it? Were there any surprises?