Outlining

It’s been a rough week for me to write regularly. What started out as floor repair is now floormageddon. My house has a Gothic horror show’s worth of dust in every nook and cranny as the contractor chips up concrete and repairs the subfloor. I am looking forward to getting back to my routine…all the routines. And sitting at the computer with a grit-free mouse, which I will never take for granted again.

I’ve been continuing (well…not this week) to work on the outline for my work in progress. I have the general 10 chapter structure (opener, point of no return complication, multiple complication chapters, climax, ending) and am now beginning to sketch out scenes in each of these 10 chapters. **Note that this doesn’t mean that this is a 10-chapter book. This is just the 10 chapters that will force the throughline of the novel and will keep the chapters on track from beginning to end.

Each morning (except this week ) I review the scene I am working on and tweak or edit if needed. I have written a paragraph or two (or five) of what I envision to happen in that scene in previous weeks. The next step is to sketch out all the elements and actions that need to be included in the scene. This outline process goes from broad to more and more specific over time.

This step makes sure that each scene has all the necessary elements to ensure that the scene has a beginning, middle, and end, and provides the reader what they need to be oriented in space and time, while the character and events move the story forward. I include:

Scene #

Setting

Objective

Internal Conflict

External Conflict

Ending

For a more detailed explanation of kinds of scenes and elements of scenes you can search the archives.

Usually, I create and write at least three scenes in each chapter because I want to make sure that the story moves forward, is interesting, has twists and turns, things happen on the page that get my character where they need to go, and ensures there is conflict to hold the reader’s interest.

Scene #

The scene number is self-explanatory. It is a place holder so that I can easily find the location in the manuscript or outline which I need to work on (Chapter 3, scene 2 for example) and also includes the brief description of what happens in the scene. I find that if I number my scenes, but discover I’ve changed something elsewhere that will affect other scenes, I can easily locate and adjust the outline or text as needed. I don’t have to waste time by searching and scrolling pages and pages trying to find that place where that thing happened that one time…

Setting

Scene setting orients the reader in space and time. It doesn’t mean that I have a whole paragraph in the beginning or middle of my scene which tells the reader that the murder happened at 6pm on a Sunday in the Library and the murderer used a candlestick. It means that I describe where and when things happen by writing bits of description throughout the scene. I then can incorporate necessary details that help tell the story visually. If you don’t show the reader when or where your character is, most likely they will be confused about where or when your character is.  Reader confusion is not a good thing.

Objective

The objective simply states what my character wants in this scene. The character always MUST want something, and that objective should be clear to the reader, clear to the character, and clear to YOU THE WRITER. If there is no objective to the scene, no purpose, why is the scene in the manuscript? It is probably best to delete that scene and start over in your outline.

Internal Conflict

Internal conflict describes all the emotional baggage that the character must deal with in this scene and will probably have to resolve by the end of the novel. The internal conflict and overcoming of internal conflict will help you arc your character so that by the end of the novel your character has grown and changed. By sketching out the internal conflict, you can flip through your scenes and see the emotional changes.

External Conflict

External conflict is all the external stumbling blocks and hurdles that your character must jump over to obtain their Objective. If there is no external conflict, then the pages, scene, chapter will be static. Static is boring. Boring is bad. Nothing should ever be too easy for your character. Characters must DO things.

Ending

The ending is the cliff hanger idea that will entice the reader to turn the page. Not every chapter needs a cliff hanger, but every scene needs a beginning, middle, and end.

Doing this sketch helps me to find plot holes and other issues and helps me get a firmer grasp on my story premise and purpose. It also forces me to figure out the conflict issues. I am totally looking forward to getting back on my writing schedule to get these things worked out…floormageddon continues.

 

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