Some writers outline and some make things up as they go along. I’m the first kind because when I try to be the second kind I end up down a giant, dark hole with no way out except for the use of the delete button. That’s a scary place to be for me.
I created a formal template of the outline I used on my last novel, The Second Chance House, and thought I’d share the outline with you. My novel is out in submission now, let’s keep our fingers crossed it finds the right home. I would like to use the outline again when I begin the second book in the series. Because I had done much of the work upfront, there was much less to edit on the back end. Oh, there was stuff to edit for sure, but I wasn’t trying to claw my way out of the black hole like I had in the last novel in my middle-grade series, Welcome To Skull Mountain.
The outline is not mine alone. I took pieces from gay romance author Damon Suede, (Damon is a fantastic writer and very funny. I’ve sat through several of his workshops.) And I took pieces from Cathy Yardley’s book Rock Your Plot. I like Cathy’s simplistic approach to explaining writing.
Here’s what I came up with:
Inciting Incident: The moment that changes the hero/heroine forever. Nothing is the same after this moment.
Plot Point One: Protagonist takes on the problem, but has no idea how to go about handling it.
Midpoint: Protagonist seems on the verge of achieving goal until everything falls apart. The protagonist is now proactive instead of reactive to the inciting incident. He/she can only be proactive by learning something new. The midpoint is a time to increase conflict.
Plot Point Two: Protagonist pushed into the spot from which success seems impossible. This should be the last big reveal of information and sets up the protagonist for the big dramatic conclusion. (You can’t reveal info after this point that hasn’t been set up already. Nothing can come in as a surprise to solve the problem.)
Black Moment/Climax: The worst possible thing has happened to the protagonist. All must seem lost at this point and the goal of the novel must seem unattainable.
Resolution: The breather. The world is restored to order and the protagonists can take a deep breath, and enjoy reaching their goal.
The outline is overly simplified, but it kept me on track. I filled in the blanks for every plot layer and subplot I had making sure every thread wound up at the climax of the story. This way the black moment effected everyone’s goals.
An outline might not speak to you. That’s okay. There is no right or wrong way to write a book. Find the method that works and try it. You may have a different method for each book you write. That’s fine too.