Tag Archive - scene outline

Developing a Scene Outline for Your Novel

Writing a novel is a challenge. If you’ve done it (or tried to), you understand. I’m a big proponent of plotting my novels in advance. While many writers dislike plotting and feel comfortable “pantsing,” it can take a lot of years and practice to get down novel/story structure well enough to “wing it” and come out with a solid story.

I do believe that even pansters can benefit by some basic plotting, and putting together a simple outline is a great way to start coalescing ideas and pieces of story into some organization. I’ve worked with countless (well, at least I’ve never tried to count them all) writers at the outline stage, and I’ve seen what appears to work best—not just for them but also for me as an author.

The first stage is to get all those drifting ideas down onto something tangible: index cards, a notepad, a Word doc, Scrivener. Whatever you’re comfortable working in. I find that taking some weeks or months to let an idea simmer and grow into a premise and finally to a fully fleshed-out plot works best. Keeping a folder to stuff ideas into helps tremendously, whether you jot a scene idea on an index card or you have various pages for your character ideas, plot elements, relationships, twists, etc.

I’m going to share some things I hope will help you in the early stages of your brainstorming and plotting to make the process less overwhelming and more organized. Continue Reading…

Outlining Your Novel for Success

Writers often need a lot of help and direction to write a novel. Even seasoned authors benefit by another set of eyes (preferably ones that are just as experienced) on their scenes. Having done dozens (perhaps hundreds) of scene outline critiques, I can attest that every novel outline, regardless of how carefully crafted, needs tweaking.

Even if you know what scenes might make up a strong story, it’s still not easy to tell if you have all the “right ones” and in the right places. I love having others take a look and throw suggestions at me, to help me make my story better.

That’s what my scene outline critique process is all about. If you’re in the embryonic stages of crafting your story or have already completed a full draft, I’d like to encourage you to get a scene outline critique.

One of the biggest problems I see as a copyeditor and writing coach is weak scenes. Scenes with no point to them. Scenes structured badly. Boring scenes, dragging scenes, repetitive scenes.

Scenes are the pieces we string together to create a whole overarching story, but all too often writers include many scenes that just don’ work and shouldn’t be in their novel. Continue Reading…

From Outline to the Nanowrimo Finish Line

In honor of Nanowrimo, I’m reprinting a post I ran a few years ago. Whether you’re participating or not, check out these good tips about outlining your story.

You’re all signed up for National Novel Writing Month. Great. Are you going to get working on an outline? No? You’re going to “pants” your way through. Fine, do that. Have fun. But, seriously: Do you expect to have a terrific novel written by the end of November?

It’s really not likely. And as I said in last week’s post, maybe you don’t care. Maybe you are all about getting to the finish line, unconcerned about the train wreck you create. It can be a lot of fun setting a writing deadline and barreling toward it. And there is surely a sense of accomplishment in that.

But why waste a whole month writing just to say “I did it”? Why not actually outline a novel that is worth writing?

I want to pull some content from a post I wrote last year to help you prepare not just for a one-time NaNo experience but to write many great novels that hold together structurally. Continue Reading…

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