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We’ve made it folks, it’s the second to the last week of Preptober. We have a solid idea, we’ve decided on whether or not to mind-map and if we have, now we’re ready to outline! (Unless you’re a pantser, plotster, etc. Still read on! You might change your mind and avoid the mid-month wall crash).
Last week, I went over three different outlining methods you can use when approaching your outline. HOWEVER! There are many and I encourage you to choose what works for you.
For the purpose of this post however, I will cover the three I mentioned.
Good Old Dan Wells
Dan Well’s created an outlining method known as the 7-point plot structure**. This is possibly my favorite method because it forces you to focus on the main points in the story and alleviates focusing too much on details too early on.
This method begins with what he likes to call the “Ice Breaker Monster.” Basically, you’re promising the reader just as they open the book that action is coming down the pike. You might do this as Lord of the Rings did by starting backwards and showing some history prior to beginning the actual story.
- Part 1: The Hook: This is the character in their ordinary world. Where they start before the inciting incident pushes them to move the story forward. In Lord of the Rings, this is when we see Harry in his squalid condition of living under the stairs. It gives us a glance into the world before moving on to the first Plot Turn.
- Part 2: Plot Turn 1: This is your inciting incident. The action that moves your character forward into their journey. In Lord of the Rings, Frodo is given the ring by Gandalf and told to meet him in Bree.
- Part 3: Pinch 1: This would follow after your hero refuses to answer the call to action. They need to be persuaded to move into their journey. For example, Frodo goes to Bree but finds Gandalf isn’t there. He realizes he must continue the journey with the help of Aragorn.
- Part 4: Midpoint: The meat of the story. A point where the character realizes they have to answer the call to action. Going back to the example of Lord of the Rings, this is when Frodo is with the council and realizes he’s the only one who can take the ring to Mordor. The Fellowship is formed.
- Part 5: Pinch 2: This is when things get bad. The hero often suffers a severe loss and finds themselves alone. After the battle with the Balrog, Frodo loses Gandalf and feels shaken in his resolve.
- Part 6 & 7 are known as the Plot turn 2 and resolution. The hero is able to get the last pieces of the story put together and move on into the resolution. Frodo and Sam decide they can’t accomplish their goals through the broken fellowship and must continue on their own. In the end, Frodo throws the Ring into the fires of Mt. Doom thus destroying Sauron.
**If you need further elaboration, Dan himself walks through three different examples in this youtube series.
Dan Harmons’ Embryo Method
Screen writer Dan Harmon does a dissection of the popular Hero’s Journey template by removing parts he deems “unnecessary” to avoid the “fluff” and move right into the action. His method is broken down like this:
- You (a character is in a zone of comfort) > Introduce your character
- Need (but they want something) > There’s something off
- Go (they enter an unfamiliar situation) > Call to action/ inciting incident
- Search (adapt to it) > They have no choice but to continue
- Find (find what they wanted) > The Midpoint
- Take (pay its price) > Things get bad for the protagonist
- Return (and go back to where they started) > Finding the power within
- Change (now capable of change) > The hero is ready to face the beast head on
I use this method from time to time because it’s very basic and doesn’t focus on details much like Dan Wells’. For more in depth study, I invite you to check this wikia.
3 Act, 9 Block, 27 Chapter Method
This is the method I used for my first novel. It’s miraculous for pacing and can offer great incite on how to break your chapters down into a manageable 27. It was founded by Katytastic on youtube and has since been used by many authors to complete their novels.
However, because of its length and the way it’s set up, I’m unable to go over every piece here. If requested, I’d be happy to do a rundown. Writer’sedit.com has already done so for the popular Young Adult series, Hunger Games.
But Which is Right for me?
As I mentioned, there are many ways to outline. Chapter by Chapter, 3 Act, Snowflake Method, Hero’s Journey, etc. There is no “right” way to outline. It’s all how you, the author, want to plan your novel.
Start by asking yourself these three questions:
- How much do I want to know before writing?
- Which would benefit my story most?
- What aspect of my story would I possibly struggle with most?
Once you know these, it should be easier for you to decide, if at all. If you’re a total plotster or panster, then sit down and go for it!
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