Friday, November 19, 2010

The Outline

Job 27: 18 He buildeth his house as a moth, and as a booth that the keeper maketh.
I’ve opened a can of worms with the mention of an outline.

A lot of writer’s don’t ever draft an outline. They write their story, get ample feedback on it and are happy with what they’ve created. Other writers have a story lined with complexities that an outline is an absolute necessity.

An outline is going to help you with the tiny, mundane, intricate levels in your story, that just writing the story isn’t going to be able to accomplish.

1. It will help you see inconsistencies. Whether it’s the clothing of the era, or the song of the right times, or maybe as simple as a car that’s being driven. If you’re doing an early 20th century novel, surely they will not be driving a Volkswagen.

2. The outline will help you with a time line. If your character was born in 1940, surely he won’t remember the 1800’s from memory. If something happened in 1955, you want to keep track of all instances that things happened.

3. It will help you with POV shifts. Maybe you started out in third person and drifted off to first person?

4. The outline is going to give you a shape and form to your work. Think of it as a lump of clay, and you the potter, who is going to mold it into an interesting piece of art.

5. Clarity! The outline is going to give you clarity so you can point out the weaknesses in your story. Whether it is a weak character that don’t really add to the story. Faults of your main character? Maybe some other character is more interesting?

The outline is a trade secret in all your writing needs. If I’m writing a short story, the outline is more like a synopsis of what I want my story to be about, where I am going with my characters, what direction each one is heading and what is the point I’m trying to get across to my reader. We need the outline to give us a visual field in which to see the future progression of our story, all the way into our umpteenth revision.

I like to think of the outline as the building of a house. You don’t begin building without a plan, a sketch, an idea; or an empty parcel of land (the blank page.) You don’t use mortar in place of wood. You don’t do the brick work without first building the foundation.

After the foundation is laid, you begin framing the house and giving it shape and form. Think of the outline as the foundation. Think of building a story around that foundation and then move onto framing the story. The rooms will all have doorways which will be different levels of your characters and conflict will abound in each and every room. (The chapters)

Sheetrock will be the solidity of each chapter, paint will be the emotions and senses of the story.  The surrounding gardens of the house will be the beautiful imagery that you add to make your story work.

Now I bet each and every writer among us is going to make an outline right this minute if they haven’t gotten one already done before they started the book. Now get building!

author's note: Congratulations to me on reaching my 600th post! Wow, I didn't think I had anything to say. :) Thank you followers!


Yvonne said...

Hooray You on your 600th post. I'm super glad to be reading your blog! F2K mentors are the awesomest. --Von

joni said...

Thanks Von!
We do our best! We work hard but not as hard as the writers, who are more AWESOMEST! lol


M. SUE said...

Hi Joni~
You are such an excellent teacher! I read your posts and find the guidance you present contains clear word pictures that affix themselves readily in my mind. When that occurs, I am delighted because I then find my self thinking, "I can really do this!"
Thank you for your persistence in presenting 600 posts. I am so glad you found something to say! =)
Big Congratulations!

joni said...

Thanks Sue!

I'm glad to see you soaring where you had only imagined you go.

And stay tuned, because I think I can fill 600 more posts. :)

I have lots to say. ;)

Thank you for your support!