Outlines, Writing, and Rewriting

A few weeks ago I wrote about the simple outline and I received varied reactions. Some said that their plot lines were too complicated to follow a simple outline, and I’d like to respond.

Focus on these points:

  • Include only the main characters plot line
  • Focus on relevancy and increasing of tension
  • Include enough details to make plot holes apparent

You can always add subplots afterwards if you want an exact blueprint. Since flora-312815_1280bsubplots are designed to support the main plot, the moments they intersect will also be included. Other details can be classified as need to know.

What I did when I needed to add a clue/red herring was put it in as a highlight or italic comment. Sure they had to be tracked, but the story really focuses on the characters, their motivation and actions.

I rewrote my outline several times to fix what became obvious problems. Things like plot holes, unnecessary scenes, and lack of tension became a tweak instead of pages of rewrites. I also found the twists and surprises were easier to incorporate.

It made finishing my latest first draft easier. Sure, I still need to do several rewrites, but that’s part of my process. I tend to go back and focus on one specific part each round like revising description, clarifying character motivation, and deepening relationships.cat-152209_1280

I know we all use the tools we like best and this one is perfect for me. I’ so excited because my capturing the essence ofΒ  my story makes writing a synopsis and pitching it that much easier.

Anything in your toolbox I should know about?


29 responses to “Outlines, Writing, and Rewriting

  1. Thanks for sharing your outlining process. I make guidelines to carry me through the story–not real specific but the scenes I know I want to include and enough info for taking me from beginning to end. I have yet to use the ending I’ve planned though! I tried to write once without planning the story and it was a bundle of ridiculous rabbit trails with no shape. I guess I’m too left brained to go without a plan.

  2. I have tried many methods of outlining, and none of them work for me. The story has to develop organically, or it just doesn’t appeal to me. The last time I tried outlining, I got the entire plot down on paper, created a wealth of characters and even a family tree. Then I looked at the whole thing and realized I didn’t want to write that story.

    I started something else instead, something where I knew the beginning but nothing else. That story is currently with my agent about to go on submission.

    • I understand. And I’m looking at it thinking, you saved yourself a lot to time by not writing it. We should always follow are hearts no matter where they lead. πŸ™‚

  3. Start simple and build works for me. Plus really detailed character sheets before I begin.
    And yes, we’ve also made salsa with all of those tomatoes.

  4. Great post. Life has gone nuts so will have to come back to read again.
    Juneta @ Writer’s Gambit

    • I hope you mean this in a positive way. πŸ™‚

      • My life went nuts the a.m. with overflowing toilets and bad dogs, not sure that is positive or negative, but lots of frustration. Dealt with it for now, so somewhat better. Trying to figure out some technical stuff now.

        Enjoyed the post will read again when everything calms down.

  5. No “I make this up as I go” for the mystery genre, is there?

  6. I’m a pantser rather than an outliner, but I used to do outlines (sketches really) before I began each new chapter. They were fabulous, not only for continuity and creating tension, but for indicating plot direction. I don’t know why I don’t do those anymore. Hmmm…

    With my current WIP, I tried using β€œbeats” (See Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat), which a lot of writers swear by. Major fail for me. I was too busy trying to hit the beats to focus on the writing. It added a year onto my manuscript. I learn something with each new novel. πŸ™‚

    VR Barkowski

  7. It’s funny. When I plot out a book, I don’t think about it as a plot or subplots. I just think of it as my story. πŸ™‚ So my plot lines can be simple or complex depending on what I’m writing. Usually, they are more complex. Even with plotting, though, while writing I still end up with those unnecessary scenes or paragraphs that I later cut.

  8. I’m glad you found a system that really works for you. That means you’ll be doing more writing! Looking forward to the next book! πŸ™‚

  9. So glad you found a method that works for you πŸ™‚

  10. I like the simple outline! Especially the “when should the victim die and how”, which could be twisted to every major element — “hero and heroine fight and stop speaking”, “villain captures hero”, “pirates attack”, etc. πŸ™‚

  11. I actually did an outline AFTER the manuscript went through MANY, MANY rewrites. It helped tighten my ms.

    To do prior, may be difficult for me, but I may try it on my next project.

    THANKS for sharing.

  12. This is sage advice, especially on adding subplots later. It’s easy to get mired down in every little detail. Thanks for sharing tour process.

  13. I’ve tried writing my outline on paper again and again, and yet, somehow there is still something about the structure that needs tweaking. I am a pantser who believes in outlining after the fact! It’s more difficult this way but it’s how I roll! πŸ™‚ It sounds like your revising is coming along well, Anna!

  14. I think the key for me is to ask the question – what does an audience wish to know that I haven’t told them (without of course leaving them nothing to solve)? I’m talking plays here of course. Some drafts will be more free flow and later ones will rein in – for me, they never stop…

If you're new to writing, ask me anything and if you're experienced, feel free to share what you know. Learning something new in the craft is always welcome.

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