Once Upon an Outline

Maybe you recall the other day when I freaked smooth out about my latest writing struggles. In the past, this would be the time when I would close the story up, toss it in the corner, and ignore it. Honestly, people. If you only knew the stacks of would-be's lying around my house.

Don't get me wrong -- I most definitely have been writing mental death threats to my main character, and yes, I've even talked to a new character on the sly, thinking life just might be greener (and wordier!) if I left my current MC.

I know, I know. I'm an evil, heartless woman.

But don't hate me too much. It's only an affair of the heart! I've also been working through my latest plot problems. Oh. So. Slowly. The good thing is, with all work, eventually there is progress. And I am definitely seeing some progress.

Last night I listened to two podcasts over at Writing Excuses --

Wait. If you don't follow this site, you should. Go do it now. I'll be here when you get back.

All set? Good! You can thank me later.

Anyway, their latest episodes focus on the ever-elusive outline. Well, elusive to me. I'm new to this whole "making a plan" thing. I can barely follow a plan in class (shocking!) so it shouldn't be surprising that when writing I'm more of a wanderer than a GPS drone. But I really am trying to make a plan and stick with it. After all, it wasn't until I had a detailed outline in hand that I was able to finish my first novel.

These two episodes are dedicated to breaking apart an outline of one of Mary Robinette Kowal's first novels, which also happen to be middle grade. Score! She even has the outline and her first chapters available on her website. Pretty awesome, if you ask me. It's especially helpful to hear the dialogue between the authors (Did I mention Brandon Sanderson and Howard Taylor are a part of this crew?) as they dissect the different elements of plot building and characterization throughout the story. Definitely worth a listen!

At the tail end of the episode 7.15, they mention that Dora the Explorer is actually a pretty decent example to follow when outlining a "quest" style story. In fact, I think it was Dan Wells that said he and his wife had once outlined the entire Lord of the Rings plot in true Dora fashion. As a teacher, I'm excited to watch a few episodes and use this format to help my students have a better grasp on outlining their fictional stories.

As a writer, I'm going to use this tip to grab my current MC by the throat and drag him through this story, whether he likes it or not.

We can always revise it later.


  1. I just love coming to your little corner of the blogosphere and reading about your writing and your struggles and your successes. And you always have the best links! THanks for these.

    #nerdywritersclub Unite

  2. It's great that you found a place to get the motivation you needed so you can get yourself writing again.

    Thanks for the link to http://www.writingexcuses.com/2012/04/08/writing-excuses-7-15-editing-marys-outline/!

  3. My characters usually take over, no matter how organized I am in giving them an outline and character assessment. They can take you to places you'd never think of yourself. Just write. The rest will follow--especially editing. Hehe.


    1. Yeah, characters definitely want (and need!) to have their voices heard! :)

  4. ahhaha, "writing mental death threats to my character" very funny. I've actually killed off a couple of my characters! I write YA. I'm over from A to Z so pop on by if you like. Cheers. (Catherine Stine's Idea City)

    1. Woot! I mostly write YA too. Thanks for stopping by!

  5. I love your attitude and commitment...and that will come through to your characters. Keep it up.
    Rhia from Five Minute Piece for Inspiration (about # 776 on A to Z list)

    1. Thanks! A little encouragement always helps, too. :)