To outline or not to outline, that is the question

outlining a novelOkay, so out of the blue I came up with (what I think is) a great idea for a mystery series.  Color me excited.  It’s especially exciting for me because I never fancied myself a series writer but the idea is just one of those that lend itself to several books coming out of the main idea.  Anyway, I digress…

I’ve always considered myself an ‘organic’ writer, which is not to say that I’m a vegetarian but that I let my stories evolve naturally.  Which is really just a nice way of say I write by the seat of my pants.

It’s been good and I’ve enjoyed it.  But I’ve been reading a lot of writers’ blogs lately and got especially hooked on the Newbie’s Guide to Publishing  and Joe makes a good case for outlining.  In fact, he writes incredibly fast.

Now, I want to write books incredibly fast and that’s something I’ve never be able to do.

What’s an outline look like?

So…I’ve decided to outline.  Then of course the next thing that comes up is: What does an outline look like?

Apparently there are many ways to outline.  Who knew?

In fact, just a very short Google search yielded these results:

Here’s a free pdf download of what I’d call the standard approach to outlining

This article includes a Sherlock Holmes Mystery template  (I may have to try this one – too intriguing not to)

This link offers a voluminous list of downloadable templates for genres and subgenres.

I have a plan

I’m pretty new to this whole concept and so I have a general idea of how I’m going to do my outline.  For anyone interested, I’ll just note it down here:

  1. Write a general description of the story line
  2. Determine any research that needs to be done and sources for the research.
  3. Write character profiles for main and secondary characters
  4. Do an extensive character profile for the victim, important since I write mysteries I probably have to know more about him than any other character, even though he never actually appears in the story.  Because of course I need to know why someone would want to kill him so that I can profile
  5. The killer – also very extensive – must really understand what motivates the person, what would drive them to murder, and how they do the deed.  Obviously, profile will also provide red herring clues and misdirections that can be planted within the story.
  6. One – two page summary of each chapter, noting what characters appear, the main action, and the climax of the chapter.
  7. Work out subplot and write a general description of how and when it intertwines with main plot
  8. General description of how the story resolves

Of course this is just what I’m thinking I’m going to do.  Some writers spend weeks working out lines; others hammer it out in a few days.  Not sure which category I may end up in.  Or if this outlining thing will be a good idea for me, but I’m going to try it.

What do you do when you approach a book?  Do you outline?  What method do you use?

Writer Chick

Copyright 2013


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