Wednesday’s Rambling Writer – The Value of an Outline + ROW80 Check-In

I have something profound to tell you… Ready??… Having an outline for your story is hugely beneficial. Hey – stop laughing, I’m serious. I know, I know it seems like an obvious statement, but it took me until my third novel to really get the concept.

When I came up with the idea for Ankhari (novel #1) I plotted out the first 10 or so chapters, just as dot points in a word doc. I had an idea of how I wanted the book to end but other than those first few chapters I winged it.

For book #2 I was even worse, no outline at all, I started writing and everytime I came up with the concept for a new scene I jumped straight into it and wrote it. Ahhhh…. no don’t do that, I hear you cry. Can you guess what I ended up with? A bunch of disjointed scenes and no logical way of linking them up. Kali Jacobs is currently sitting, about 3/4 done and I have lost all desire to finish it (I still love the story and I know I will go back to it eventually but at the moment it just seems all too difficult).

So when it came time to start work on The Soul Hunter (novel #3) I knew I needed to get off on the right foot. So I was going to outline, and not just a little bit, I was going to outline the entire novel – chapters, scenes, characters – the lot! Oh, but how to do it? I don’t have the space in my house to set up an entire wall with multi-coloured post-it notes taking me through every scene (and even if I did the kids would think it was hilarious to pull them all back down). But I found out that I could create an outline, link in my characters and locations and keep track of plot strands all in the one place and all on my computer! It’s called StoryBook.

If you have already tried out StoryBook then you probably already know what I am talking about. If you haven’t – do yourself a favour and go here and have a look. This program is FREE yes that’s right, you can pay to upgrade to the professional version, but the basic version is completely free.

This program might not be for everyone but I LOVE IT! In particular I love having all my info in the one place. I have my 26 chapters laid out on the screen with the appropriate scenes listed under each. When I click on the scene it opens up to give me a dot point outline of what happens in that scene as well as a list of all characters in that scene, all locations and the date. This is also an excellent resource for managing your characters, there is the facility to list all your characters (denoted as either major or minor), include their date of birth/death and a description.

I won’t give you a blow-by-blow description of everything the program can do here, save to say that it is great and I highly recommend it.

So… how am I finding writing my novel now that I have a detailed outline? It is amazing. I am embarrassed that I hadn’t written an outline before – the words are quite literally flowing onto the paper.

I am now 17 days into The Round of Words in 40 Days Challenge and in the past 17 days I have written 12318 words (which for me is alot!) and I can honestly say I attribute that to the fact that I have an outline in place. Plus of course all the amazing support I am receiving from my ROW80 pals.

How did I go over the past few days with my ROW80 goals? Well for the first time I hit a snag with writing my 500 words a day. On Tuesday my kids went to their grandparent’s house for the night and after a big day of pool renovating (my Husband and I were tiling the waterline in our pool) I decided to treat myself to a night out at the movies rather than sitting at the computer – so I went and saw Harry Potter (more in next Monday’s post on this!). Enough said – I didn’t hit my word count that day, but I wrote more than double my word count today to make up for it!

DAY 15 – 630 (total 11023)

DAY 16 – 130 (total 11153)

DAY 17 – 1165 (total 12318)

Other goals were to comment on 15 other ROW80er’s blogs (I made 10) and to finish the first draft of my latest short story (done at 1825 words, max was 2000).

My goals for the next week are: keep up with my 500 words a day on Soul Hunter; comment on 10 ROW80 blogs; edit and submit Thirteen Months short story.

Hope you are all doing well with your goals. Have you used StoryBook? Do you like it? Do you have any other programs or tips for outlining?

Jody Moller

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15 responses to “Wednesday’s Rambling Writer – The Value of an Outline + ROW80 Check-In

  1. Great work on hitting your goals most of the days! I wish I could outline, but I always seem to lose my thrill for writing once I have it all planned out. It’s definitely more difficult (I’m rewriting my first draft now and holy hell it needed it!), but for some reason outlining doesn’t work as well for me. I’m definitely going to check out StoryBook, though because I’ve been looking for a way to organize my rewrite. Thanks for the tip and good luck with the rest of the week!

    • I find the hardest part about outlining is coming up with the whole story in one hit rather than planning it as you are writing which can take months. With Soul Hunter the idea had been floating around my brain for about a year before I wrote the outline – if it was a story I had only just come up with I don’t think I would have been able to do it! Good luck with everything this week…

  2. You seem to be arguing against (and then finally agreeing with) a world that is enthusiastically in favor of outlining, whereas in my experience there are at least as many pansters around as plotters.

    Me, I never outline and am unlikely to start. I’m not against it in any way, and I never advise against it (or for it, for that matter), but it doesn’t appeal to me (so I don’t have any programs or tips 🙂 ).

    I’m starting a second draft of my WIP, so I guess my rough outline is the first draft, but I can already see that it’s going to go in some different directions. After all, I’m now writing it from the POV of a character who wasn’t even in the first draft.

    StoryBook sounds like a wonderful program, though, for those who work that way. I’m glad you found it.

  3. I’ve never written out outlines. I try it, but I always set it aside and just write bits of information down that I want to be in the novel or short story I’m working on. I did download StoryBook, and it looks great so far. I need to work with it some more, but maybe I can find it useful in keeping my tidbits of information organized. Who knows…I may convert to outlining yet. 😉 Still, I’m glad you found what works for you and have had a successful week in writing!

    • It took me a while to get my head around the best way to use StoryBook and I have to say that I still am probably not using it as well as I could (eg when I decide to make changes to the scene as I am writing it I know I should go back into StoryBook and make notes of what was changed but I am so wrapped up in writing that I never do and then I forget!) [another of my goals for this week is to purchase your novella and start reading it… have to try and remember :)]

      • Thanks, Jody! I appreciate that very much! 🙂 I hope you enjoy it when you get to read it!

        I haven’t checked out StoryBook anymore since I downloaded. Shameful, I know! But, I’m going to try and use it for my next work in progress since I’m nearly finished with my current one. I’d be the same way though, forgetting to change things as I go along. I’m terrible at remembering the small things when I write! I might as well re-read everything I’ve written before starting the day off!

  4. Congrats on how well you did this week! I’m an outliner, and I find that I can write much more quickly when I have an outline as well. When I don’t have an outline, I end up staring at the blank page and panicking. Not very conducive to reaching my word count 🙂

    • Thanks for the well wishes. I am still in shock as to how much easier it is to write when you know what is going to be happening in the rest of the story (particularly as you can add in hints about twists etc in the first draft instead of having to slot them in later!) Hope you have a good week writing!

  5. Nice job on your goals! StoryBook sounds like a great tool. I never wrote anything with the intention of finishing or really even being coherent, so I’m finding that now that I would like it to make sense to other people, I really enjoy outlining. And I love software lol – so I’m glad you recommended it as it might be right up my alley! Best of luck this week 🙂

  6. I’ve been on the same trajectory, Jody–two character-driven novels where I built the plot in as I went along, and now I’m working on my third novel with an outline. It’s amazing! It’s grand! I love it! Will I outline my next novel? Maybe, maybe not. It might be that this one, which is epic historical fiction, begged for an outline because there are so many characters and plot pieces to keep track of. We’ll see. But I’ll check out StoryBook at some point. I’ve also been interested in trying Scrivener but haven’t taken the plunge yet.

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