Once upon a time, there was a self-publishing podcast from which sprung the Facebook group The Smarter Artist. To create a platform where indie-writers could meet like-minded editors, a bunch of editors within this group of writers created the spin-off group The Smarter Artist Editors. Long story short, a dedicated few started a weekly thread sharing editing tips with the community, and we’re now ready to share these tips with the world.
Today, I’m sharing a tip from myself.
NaNoWriMo is around the corner, so how about we talk about outlining and plotting for a bit?
My clients often ask me what is the right way to outline their work. I know not every editor or writer will agree with me here, but I always tell them there are many ways to tackle your outline, and it’s about finding the approach that works best for you. Our brains are all wired differently, so what works for your best writing bud or Hemingway or JK Rowling might not work for you.
It also very much depend on whether you are a plotter, a pantser, or something in between. This article discusses 5 different ‘boxes’ in which a writer can fall depending on how they tackle their plots.
If you haven’t found a way that works best for you yet, feel free to experiment, try different methods, or even combine elements from different methods.
The way I go about it is I know where the story begins and where it ends, and then I trace back. First for my MC, then for the other important characters, then for the less important characters. What is it that they want and what obstacles will they have to overcome to get there? As I go through these layers, I look at how what different characters want conflicts or intertwines and how and where I can use that to help the plot along.
At this point, I will also look at the world in which my story is set and see how its elements (geography, customs, historical context, political atmosphere, underlying world views, and so on) could affect the characters and their development to create even more depth and conflict. After this exercise (which takes a long time for me), I am ready to distil the different chapters and the scenes they have to include, and that’s when I’m ready to actually start writing.
Do you have an outlining method that works for you? A handbook you swear by? Or are you still trying to figure out what works best for you?
For a little inspiration, this article discusses 7 different outlining methods.