A New Weapon In My Arsenal: Using the Outline to Minimize Passive Voice

          Okay, you’re probably thinking I must have been living under a rock. No, it’s not as if I just heard about the outline and all of its values. It’s just that I’m the artsy type. You know, the don’t like to be boxed in, don’t like rules, don’t like to be limited type? That would be fine, and I could continue flying (writing) by the seat of my pants in my own little artsy world if I didn’t have this teensie weensie problem.  What do you get when you cross an organized, rational mind with an artsy type? Here it comes. I’m also OCD.  There. I said it. Just a tad, but acknowledging the problem is what? Is it 9/10 of solving it? I doubt that, but…wait a minute. I just gave everyone an example of why I need an outline. I’m supposed to be talking about my outline and here I am over in artsy type world talking about OCD.  Maybe if I don’t say it so loud it won’t be so annoying. Okay, … right, the outline. Here we go.

          There are several types of outlines, ranging from very detailed to signposts to notes. Since I’m already so resistant (kind of an all or nothing kind of gal, too), I’ve developed one that fits my style. It’s just detailed enough to meet my needs, but it doesn’t encumber me or require that I redo it too often. There’s lots of room to move and still stick to my outline.

          I start by listing the main and supporting characters across the top of the page just beneath the title and working blurb. This way I have the main plot, conflict, and enough characterization to get me going. You can use a chart, but I use a family-tree-like web since I’m used to using those in counseling and therapy. Next, I create a vertical line down the remainder of the page leaving enough room for me to type or scribble notes on the right side of the page. The left side of the vertical line is used to jot down main plot points for each scene and chapter, leaving space at the end of each to add or write questions or things I still need to work out.

          Along the way, I highlight the main plot points and estimate how many pages each scene and chapter will take. This way, I have an estimate of how long the story will be and how long it will take me to complete the first draft.

          This is a big decision for me – coming to the realization and finally admitting that I will be more productive using an outline. Now, for those of you who are die-hard pantsers, or maybe you’d just like to tweek your outline skills or try a new one, here’s a good resource for outlines in general. I posted a few more below. Happy, prolific writing J

http://www.advancedfictionwriting.com/art/snowflake.php - Randy Ingermansson’s “Snowflake” method

http://www.ehow.com/how_4536804_outline-writing-novel.html - Karen Silvestri - very practical, down to earth

http://www.how-to-write-a-book-now.com/writing-an-outline.html - Glen C. Strathy – quite a bit more in-depth and detailed, but figured I should include at least one of these



Cherie Reich said…
I like your outlining ideas and making them fit you. For longer works, outlines can definitely help out, but I'm more of a plotter. :)
Dariel Raye said…
Right now, the outline is helping me flesh-out my plot points, too. It's the whole series thing that's got me nervous enough to create an outline :-) I'm definitely a pantser at heart!
Rod Tyson said…
Love this article - I have been a 'pantser' but am gathering tools/ methods to become a lot more organised. Sometimes the pantser method just fired off creativity, but I find if you wrote an entire novel that way it takes longer than it could if you were more organised.
I agree with Dariel's points too- writing a series forces you to become more organised.