So NaNoWriMo begins in less than a week and millions of writers are gearing up for the 50k word challenge.
Everyone has his or her unique way of prepping for National Novel Writing Month. For the intense planners like myself, we’ve already developed outlines, character profiles and have a stack of sticky notes allocated to our NaNo projects. Meanwhile, pantsers are clutching their pens [or keyboards], anxious for the green light on November 1st.
But this post isn’t about NaNo Prep. This post is about outlines.
As a planner, my outline is my road map through my book. I know where I’m going and what stops I need to make, allowing me to be a non-linear writer (which has helped me overcome many a road block).
But I haven’t always been that way. For my first novel and a half, I was definitely a discovery writer. But now that I’m revising and rewriting all my discovery work, I’m wishing I had outlined from the start.
Because an outline is more than just a road map.
An outline can help you detect plot holes, recognize pacing issues and help you further develop your story arch(s). I’ve had numerous conversations with other writers on how doing an outline (even after completing a draft) has improved their novel and helped work out some issues they had been dealing with during revision.
One writer [THANKS, JAMIE!] was awesome enough to share an outline format with me that has truly transformed the way I look at the structure of my novels: The Blake Snyder Beat Sheet.
Seriously though, Snyder’s outline format from his book, Save the Cat, changed my life. It separates your novel [or screenplay] into four parts: Act 1, Act 2a, Act 2b and Act 3. Below is what his model looks like:
Opening Image (What we first see in the story, setting the mood and tone.)
Set-Up (Introduction of world and characters)
Catalyst (Also considered “The Inciting Event”)
Debate (Does the protagonist want to take on this new problem?)
ACT TWO – A:
Break Into Two (Protagonist decides to move forward.)
B Story (Sub Plot)
Fun and Games (Solving problems before problems get REALLY serious.)
Midpoint (That moment where you say to yourself, “Well crap just got real.)
ACT TWO – B:
Bad Guy Closes In (The stakes are raised.)
All is Lost (The Protagonist’s low point.)
Dark Night of the Soul (Protagonist does some soul searching to find the solution.)
Break Into Three (Protagonist figures out the solution.)
Finale (The Climax)
Final Image (Resolution or “Wrap Up”)
The above is a very simplified version of this beautiful outline, but it really has done wonders for me.
You don’t have to use this particular model to outline your WIP, but I do recommend taking an afternoon to deconstruct your story. Taking that time to find plot holes prior to submission is kind of invaluable.
Happy Writing, Everyone!
Snyder, B. (2005). Save the cat!: The last book on screenwriting you’ll ever need. Studio City, CA: M. Wiese Productions.