Welcome to Outlining 101. Yes, some eyes just rolled. How can a creative soul develop masterworks by being stuck in the straightjacket of an outline? You ditched pre-writing sketches in high school and have never looked back. No blueprints for you. Books must grow organically out of your thoughts, and an outline will stifle your creative flow!
No worries. Winging it is a valid writing method especially for fiction writers. As an author, you are not required to use outlines. That said, many authors benefit from a well-laid plot blueprint. It helps authors avoid corners with no way out. It also helps authors who continually start projects but for the life of them cannot figure out how to come to the completion point. There are many ways to outline. The following list will touch on the nuts and bolts of popular methods.
A classical outline includes Roman numerals, letters and numbers for headings and subheadings. This is a highly organized form of outlining and relies heavily on sequential thinking. It is most popular for non-fiction works. The goal of the classical outline is to create a blueprint that effectively divides main ideas and subordinating ones, while at the same time coordinating ideas into a cohesive whole. This kind of pre-writing organization brings clarity to the work.
In a summary outline, the number of chapters is estimated. The writer often starts out with a document similar to a beat sheet used by screenwriters (a sequentially ordered list of plot events). Then a short summary of each chapter is written. A clear goal is defined for each chapter, and the characters are discussed, along with settings and chapter timelines. This kind of outline is very linear in nature.
This form of outlining is very popular because it allows for constant reorganization of ideas. Writers create short scene synopses and rearrange them at will. This is great for those who have a non-linear style. Many use Post-it notes instead of note cards. Post-it notes can be easily arranged on a wall board, offering a more visual way to follow the story’s plot. For the technically inclined, a program like Microsoft’s “Power Point” or Mac’s “Keynote” allow you to create cards online and easily rearrange as needed.
Clustering, or mind mapping, is an outline form that is very random and organic. It’s about creating a web of ideas that will eventually be used to start a story. The main idea is placed in a central bubble. More bubbles surround it. They radiate out from the center, creating a web-like shape upon completion. Lines connect all the bubbles with coordinating ideas. For large works, a poster-sized sheet of paper is recommended.
Several software programs offer easy outlining capabilities for authors. Microsoft Word is the industry standard. It has a classic outlining feature that many authors swear by. This feature is complex and requires reading and perhaps taking an advanced course. Other programs have more user-friendly outlining features. Scrivener, Writer’s Blocks and Celtx are popular writing software programs with outlining capabilities.
Very helpful, i love the index card method, it works best for me
I wasn't sure whether to write this book or not because God has given me a gift and I don't want to lose it. I'm nobody special, I'm just a sinner
like everyone else, yet he always takes care of me. He spoke to me once when I was 29, for what seemed like 30min but I had just looked at
the clock and it was only 5mins. I called my mother as soon as it was over because I knew she was the only one who would believe me. Her
first question was, "what did he say," The only thing he let me remember was for me not to be scared of death and all of my loved ones
were going to heaven.
I have no idea why that was the only thing he let me remember or why he even brought it up. I wasn't scared of or even thinking of death. What
I didn't know at the time was he told me a lot that of things but I would only remember them when needed. All through the rest of my life
people would ask me religious questions and I knew the answer without ever reading or asking the first priest. It applied to me also, I would
have questions and new the answer without asking anybody.
A lot of times it's hard to hear God even though he's always guiding us. I would drowned him out with my own answers, stupid me always
had this little part that thought I knew better. So I would do things my way and they turned out disastrous, still that little human part in
us always thinks that they know the answer. That's about the dumbest thing that we humans think. I don't think we humans can help it, until
We finally hear God.
It usually takes a crisis for us to hear him. A time when we have no other place to go, we are usually begging for someone's life or maybe our own. At those times we don't pray right, we will ask God to keep our child or brother or someone we love alive. The right way to pray is for you to ask God, "please give me strength for what ever decision you've made." God can see the future, he can see a week from now or a year, so he has an edge on every decision. I prayed for my boyfriend to live when he was very sick, so God let him, after 3months, I was begging for him to die. He was a tough guy, no crybaby even after the doctors told him his liver was
gone and he was dying. Even though I knew to trust in God, I didn't care because if Greg died I would die.
I found the notes about the clustering method extremely helpful for my outlining. Thanks for sharing! I tend to be a bit non-linear in my thinking, and it was good to find a method that matched my thought process.
I am trying classical outlining for a non-fiction book. I have set my goals high but as time passes I think I can reach them.
Very helpful information, Molly. I use mapping software, but since I use MS Word, I'm going to learn how to use its outlining capabilities. Thanks for sharing!
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