Outlining my story

Cafe standard - working on a better outlineLast week the outline to my new novel was a mare’s nest of plot threads. Or perhaps a bridge to nowhere would be a better metaphor.   The SCBWI conference., notably Steven Malk’s talk, has energized me to do a better job. 

One problem I’ve had historically with this process is my anxiety over the word outline.  The term denotes an empty shape.  A hollow thing.  It connotes the tedious list my dreary teachers and professors forced me to write.

My process in this past week was to simplify and focus the plot.   It was drowning in recursive complications.  After ripping out the unwanted text, the storyline now has loads of room to roll out an organic sequence of events with believable character development.

Then I began to write, not a list, but a warm narrative of the action.  Though I laid the plot points out in chronological order, I composed them from the edges toward the center, leaving open spaces to be filled in as a write the text itself.  From this narrative I should be able to create a bulleted list to make even the most stern professor proud.

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