Writers often look upon outlines with fear and trembling. But when properly understood and correctly wielded, the outline is one of the most powerful weapons in a writer’s arsenal. Outlining Your Novel: Map Your Way to Success will:
Help you choose the right type of outline for you
Guide you in brainstorming plot ideas
Aid you in discovering your characters
Show you how to structure your scenes
Explain how to format your finished outline
Instruct you in how to use your outline
Reveal the benefits:
Ensures cohesion and balance
Prevents dead-end ideas
Offers assurance and motivation
Requires formal formatting
Robs the joy of discovery
Takes too much time
Even if you’re certain outlining isn’t for you, the book offers all kinds of important tips on plot, structure, and character. Includes exclusive interviews with Larry Brooks, Elizabeth Spann Craig, Lisa Grace, Dan L. Hays, Jody Hedlund, Carolyn Kaufman, Becky Levine, Roz Morris, John Robinson, and Aggie Villanueva, answering important questions:
Can you describe your outlining process?
What is the greatest benefit of outlining?
What is the biggest potential pitfall of outlining?
Do you recommend “pantsing” for certain situations and outlining for others?
What’s the most important contributing factor to a successful outline?
Let me start by saying I am NOT an outliner. I’ve done it before, and I found it to be a complete waste of time — I spent weeks working on it, but after the first third of the novel I had abandoned the outline to follow a better story. Since then, I’ve worked from character sketches. I spend days (weeks) getting to know my characters. I know where they’re going to start and I know where I want them to end up. Using what I know about their personalities, I throw situations at them in order to guide them to the ending I want. That technique works for me.
Because of my previous bad experience with outlining (and my success with character building), I wasn’t really excited about reading this book. I’m not an outliner. After reading this book, however, I don’t think K.M. Weiland or any of the above mentioned authors are either.
The title of this book really should be Researching Your Novel or Before You Start Writing, Do This. By Weiland’s definition of outlining (which is essentially creating pages and pages of story notes and ideas before you start writing your book), anyone who preps before they start writing could essentially be considered an outliner.
The real emphasis here isn’t to outline your book, but to take time before you write to jot down some ideas and figure out plot holes and characters first so you don’t have to go back and fix things later. For that reason, I enjoyed this book because I believe in the power of prep work.
I would recommend this book to anyone either early in their writing career or struggling to put together new story ideas. There are some great tips and suggestions in this book that will help strengthen your characters and their stories.