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Helping Writers Become Authors #1

Outlining Your Novel: Map Your Way to Success

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Writers often look upon outlines with fear and trembling. But when properly understood and correctly wielded, the outline is one of the most powerful weapons in a writer’s arsenal. Outlining Your Novel: Map Your Way to Success will:

Help you choose the right type of outline for you
Guide you in brainstorming plot ideas
Aid you in discovering your characters
Show you how to structure your scenes
Explain how to format your finished outline
Instruct you in how to use your outline
Reveal the benefits:
Ensures cohesion and balance
Prevents dead-end ideas
Provides foreshadowing
Offers assurance and motivation
Dispel misconceptions:
Requires formal formatting
Limits creativity
Robs the joy of discovery
Takes too much time
Even if you're certain outlining isn't for you, the book offers all kinds of important tips on plot, structure, and character. Includes exclusive interviews with Larry Brooks, Elizabeth Spann Craig, Lisa Grace, Dan L. Hays, Jody Hedlund, Carolyn Kaufman, Becky Levine, Roz Morris, John Robinson, and Aggie Villanueva, answering important questions:

Can you describe your outlining process?
What is the greatest benefit of outlining?
What is the biggest potential pitfall of outlining?
Do you recommend "pantsing" for certain situations and outlining for others?
What's the most important contributing factor to a successful outline?

192 pages, Kindle Edition

First published January 1, 2011

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About the author

K.M. Weiland

25 books2,248 followers
K.M. Weiland lives in make-believe worlds, talks to imaginary friends, and survives primarily on chocolate truffles and espresso.

She is the award-winning and internationally published author of acclaimed writing guides Outlining Your Novel, Structuring Your Novel, and Creating Character Arcs, as well as Jane Eyre: The Writer’s Digest Annotated Classic.

Her fiction includes the gaslamp fantasy Wayfarer, the historical/dieselpunk adventure Storming, the portal fantasy Dreamlander, and the medieval epic Behold the Dawn.

When she’s not making things up, she’s busy mentoring other authors on her award-winning blog HelpingWritersBecomeAuthors.com.

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5 stars
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 632 reviews
Profile Image for Lee Dunning.
Author 9 books23 followers
July 19, 2013
What K.M. Weiland calls outlining and what I call outlining are vastly different. Outlining is a road map for me to make sure that when I get to the end of my story I don't end up painted into a corner, resorting to sticking a stupid space spider in as my evil monster (yes, I'm referring to "It" by Stephen King). K.M. Weiland seems to view outlining as a complete and utter diagram of every aspect of the story. In reading through her examples, they come across as free form brainstorming sessions. By the time she gets done (several months later) she has to go back through and do an abbreviated outline to keep from getting bogged down in all the minutiae of the "first draft" of her outline.

Most of the book isn't about outlining, it's about story construction in general: creating characters, theme, POV, world building/setting. Within these sections I did find some useful information (ie. using the Ennegram chart to work through character creation), but in terms of actual determination of story organization - Beginning, Middle and End, I did not find the book all that useful. Perhaps because, in my mind, outlining is a simple thing that requires a handful of pages to explain and not almost two hundred.

One other complaint I have is her lack of concrete examples. She refers to many books and scenes, but does not actually provide excerpts from the stories in order to make her points clear. She instead describes the scenes. I had read a couple of the books she referred to, but not many, and so I was unable to think to myself, "Aha, that's what she means when she talks about personal conflict."

I'm giving the book three stars more for what it is than for what it was meant to be. There are some good ideas present for the creation process of a book. She also provides some links to software and personality charts that may be of use.
Profile Image for Kellyn Roth.
Author 24 books832 followers
June 14, 2022
Originally posted on the January 2017 Mini Review post

Whoa! That was fantastic!

Okay, so, I have written (to completion: I've started maybe fifty other books) three full-length books now. The first two had to be intensively rewritten. In fact, very little of the original drafts remain. Why was this? Well, after assuming myself to be a "pantser" (because I was too lazy to outline), I refused to outline ...

And that got me nowhere.

I decided to try some extensive outlining with my third book (currently titled At Her Fingertips) this last November (for NaNoWriMo). I wrote 65,000+ words in 30 days (beating my previous record of 42,000) and they're not all trash. Yes, it's first drafty ... but I have a feeling that this is a winner! I don't expect rewriting, and I think my revising will be lighter.

I don't know if K.M. Weiland's Outlining Your Novel is completely responsible for this. I was super excited about my story this last NaNo, and that's part of the reason. But ... well, K.M. Weiland's methods and ideas and tips are all great, and they are at least 75% responsible for me actually having an enjoyable writing experience!

Grab a copy! It's a wonder what a little outlining can do, even if you don't think you're a 'plotter.'

~Kellyn Roth
Profile Image for Ashlee Willis.
Author 2 books180 followers
May 21, 2015
I haven't felt that I spent my money on something so worthy of it in quite some time. This book was pretty amazing. Nothing I've read on writing before has made me get so excited about ... well ... writing! These are not just ideas that you have to grab at and hope work. They are solid ideas and principles that can get put into practice. I'm so eager to put these ideas to use in my next novel, and I'm lamenting the fact that I didn't read this book sooner. I've always known that, for me, outlining my novel before writing it was a necessity. The problem was that I went about outlining in a rather slapdash way. K.M. Weiland has organized her ideas and thoughts and her very own practices on outlining (along with excerpts from other authors' practices) in a way that makes me feel absolutely confident that I'll be able to nail my next novel before I've technically begun a word of it :) RECOMMEND to every single aspiring or established writer out there.
Profile Image for Julie.
Author 6 books1,663 followers
June 1, 2019
The thing is, I pantsed my first novel entirely. I survived, the novel sold, it's doing well, I'm proud of the whole endeavor. But I would never (never say never) write a novel that way again.

Yet, I can't quite get my head around stitching together an outline in which each scene is planned, the beginning, middle, end a fixed thing, predetermined by process. I know now that each book is its own creature, that the narrative itself determines the process, more than the writer. I will always be a right-brained writer, who lets the spark of creativity and the loosey-goosey nature of intuition guide her hand.

Yet, in teaching writing, I witness the flailing of my students, watch (read, rather) as their stories slip off the rails and tumble into a morass of weak conflict, forgotten goals, and confused POVs. And in helping them rein in their narratives, I recognized the weaknesses in my own.

K.M. Weiland's excellent guide to the novel outline isn't prescriptive. It offers a myriad of ways to approach the organization of thoughts into something that will make it easier for the writer to let her creative juices flow freely. She presents an excellent, really impossible-to-argue-with case for allowing process into the flow.

I used this book recently, in tandem with the outline system I most prefer (Michael Hague's Three Act, Six State Plot Structure in a workshop with my novels-in-progress group and I could just hear the gears clicking into place. Tomorrow we will reconvene and they will present their outlines-in-progress. I can't wait to see how they've grown and what I will learn from them.

Highly recommended, writers, even for-perhaps most particularly for-the die-hard pantser.
Profile Image for Cherie.
Author 29 books115 followers
June 28, 2012
OUTLINING YOUR NOVEL: MAP YOUR WAY TO SUCCESS by K.M. Weiland focuses on ways to outline without destroying creativity.

Writers are often divided into two types: plotters and pantsers, but both sides can learn from each other. Outlines don’t have to kill creativity nor take away the thrill of discovering the characters and plot. Through various tools, the writer can learn about their novel in way that doesn’t bore the person. This book also includes interviews with various authors and how they do or don’t outline.

OUTLINING YOUR NOVEL opened my eyes to various ways to outline from in-depth character interviews to brief key points. So much more goes into the best novels beyond good storytelling, and outlining can save a writer from wandering lost in the woods for a hundred pages. The author interviews honed in that every writer outlines differently. There is no one correct way to outline. Weiland often uses her own experience with outlining to show what works for her. Best of all, this book helps a writer focus on the key ingredients that need to be in a novel.

K.M. Weiland’s OUTLINING YOUR NOVEL: MAP YOUR WAY TO SUCCESS is a brilliant tool for any person wanting to learn more about the craft of writing.
Profile Image for Ken.
Author 3 books885 followers
July 25, 2020
Who knew? When you write a novel without an outline, it's called "pantsing." I'd love to see the etymology of this term, but for now I can admit that the first (unpublished) novel I wrote some 25 years ago was "pantsed."

The editor who was gracious enough to write a personalized letter by way of rejection said a lot of good things about that novel, but her chief concern was the plot. You know. It don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing. What do readers love best? Plot.

So this book, against every inclination, fell into my hands after I made the mistake of beginning Novel #2 by writing three chapters (pant, pant, pantaloon). The reaction from my readers was, "Um. Where is this going?"

Eureka. The backstory to the book in hand. It's soup to nuts (good), it's pretty basic (good), and it's practical as all get-out (very good). Some of the included interviews of authors I could have done without, because they felt gratuitous and really didn't add anything except for window dressing.

There are also links to helpful online sites. I know, I know. Half the time when you get a link from a book, it disappears by the time you get there. Kind of like the Cheshire Cat. (And you know what? I have a sneaking suspicion Lewis Carroll "pantsed" that novel. Either that or his outline was high, which, like batteries, isn't included in this book.)
Profile Image for Lilia Ford.
Author 15 books184 followers
October 18, 2014
Somewhat to my surprise, I found this book very helpful, both for the specific exploration of how experienced authors go about creating outlines and in general for its insights into the creative process. I would especially recommend the book for "pantsers" (like myself) who are looking to be more disciplined and efficient in their fiction writing. My one complaint is with the gushy style, especially the author's enthusiasm for extended metaphors. Typical example:

"After several months of diligent preparation, you're ready to embark on your road trip down the Interstate and dusty back roads of your story. You've decided on your destination, you've mapped your route, and you've packed your equipment. All that's left is to buckle yourself into your desk chair and rev up your computer. Adventure waits ahead...."

It continues like that for most of a page. Luckily that passage came towards the end, or I might have quit reading. Still, I did find this a lot more helpful than several more elegantly written books on techniques of novel writing, so apparently style is not a reliable indicator of substance in this genre.

Bottom line; Must-read for chronically blocked "pantsers." I suspect that anyone whose eyes light up at the promise of title will find this helpful.
Profile Image for Meg Sherman.
169 reviews413 followers
April 10, 2016
I'm a K. M. Weiland fan! I can't imagine writing fiction without her.

This book offers some fantastic insights - definitely worth purchasing rather than checking out at the library, just so you can color-code and scribble margin notes. As a writer, I don't follow her outlining method to the letter (I doubt any two writers have identical methods), but her insights have definitely changed my craft forever.

P.S. Weiland's weekly newsletter is my #1 favorite resource as a fiction writer. Do yourself a favor and sign up on her website HelpingWritersBecomeAuthors.com - and especially check out her series of entries on 'Creating Stunning Character Arcs.' It revolutionized the way I plan my stories.

P.P.S. You're welcome.
Profile Image for Yolo Yearwood.
Author 3 books31 followers
May 7, 2013
Great book for novelists, fiction and non. I'm currently in the revision stages of my fiction novel, but I've been pantsing it for the most part. I've found myself using the comments feature (on Scrivener) as I write each chapter where I list the details like plots, subplots, points of view, characters, settings, etc. I even started yet another notebook with the scenes written out in some semblance of order, but found myself losing focus when adding subplot scenes in with the plot scenes. I've drawn diagrams, mind maps, charts, and illustrations trying to lay out my story in some type of outline. I even looked up the good ole' JK Rowling's outlines for Harry Potter to use for an idea of how to plot the outline. Needless to say, this book Outlining Your Novel: Map Your Way couldn't have come along at a better time for me.

Now having read this book, I've rediscovered yWriter, which is free to download btw, and started going back through my novel so I can organize each scene using the details I was already trying to organize. Additionally, I've checked out all the analysis features like the printable lists of characters and traits, setting descriptions and scene titles, which can also be filtered according to character. Best of all is the feature that allows you to chart your plot along a linear line so you can see when you are overusing a character or failing to involve another. Pretty sweet if you ask me :). Did I mention yWriter was free?!

Back to the book in review. The author also goes into great depth about character and setting descriptions. I am currently using the list of 100 questions for the character interview as a way to dig deeper into the psyche and past of my four main characters. I'm also looking forward to using the setting description questions to further explore the abilities for my two main settings as I can see them becoming characters themselves, as Weiland points out in her book.

Great addition to a newbie novelist's toolbox.
Profile Image for T.W. Spencer.
Author 1 book5 followers
December 27, 2011
After reading this book, Outlining Your Novel, I am impressed with the author's keen insight on novel construction. Her book has given me great insight into my currant manuscript. I have been a pantser for years, but when I started working on my current project, at the beginning of this year’s National Novel Writing Month, I soon realized that the idea was just too BIG.

I have had this idea playing around the back of my head for going on ten years now. I thought I had a good sense of where I wanted to go and what I wanted to write. Though by the end of November, and over 90,000 words later, I felt I really had gone nowhere with the story/characters. This manuscript required a thorough plotting before I could really understand what I was writing and the statement I wanted to get across to the reader.

The author's clear and concise book has helped to settle my muddy lake of creativity; in fact, the dam that blocked my creative river has a gaping hole down the middle. Had I not stumbled across Outlining Your Novel while searching for help to get out of the quagmire I had written myself into, I would still be floundering in the murky depths.

So I can’t thank the author enough for writing this book. I want her to know that I plan to follow the insights of her book to the letter. I don’t expect them to make me the next great author, but book has given me the tools to map out a clear path to what I truly want to write. I thank K. M. Weiland, sincerely, for that. Though it still remains to be seen, I believe she has made me a better writer.
Profile Image for Liberty.
Author 14 books52 followers
July 26, 2012
As a reluctant outliner, I couldn't recommend K.M. Weiland's book more. The techniques she suggests in "Outlining Your Novel" will definitely help me in future projects as I further explore the outlining concept.

Her book is well organized, beginning with many misconceptions about outlines--many of which I used to adhere to until recently--and taking you step-by-step to the start of the actual writing of your novel. Several techniques I'd already begun utilizing prior to reading her book. Many others I am already contemplating using as I begin working on my next three projects, two of which I've already started "pantsing."

What makes K.M.'s book great is the fact she speaks from personal experience, describing the techniques she personally uses when drafting her novels. In a series of interviews, she also draws on the varied experiences of ten other authors, such as Elizabeth Spann Craig and Jody Hedlund. Examples of good techniques are also used from various books and movies--"The Patriot" and Orson Scott Card's "Ender's Game" and "Ender's Shadow" are made examples of more than once.

If you're a newbie writer, or just a newbie to outlining, reading K.M.'s book is well worth the time. All of the techniques indicated may not be for you--I know I'm not nearly as detailed as she is!--but they do add something extra to think about as you embark on this great writer journey.
Profile Image for Bill Tillman.
1,641 reviews64 followers
April 27, 2015
I have listened to this author on You Tube with about 120 2 minute lessons on writing. She is very good and this book proves it. No wasted words, only point after point of clear instruction about creating killer outlines for your work.
Profile Image for Aleksandr Voinov.
Author 80 books2,393 followers
Read
April 29, 2013
Smart little book that I read when I needed to think harder about where my book is going. I'll still remain 70% pantser, but even "thinking ahead" (as I call my plotting) can benefit from reading about/contemplating structure.

Maybe I'll try to outline the next one. :)
Profile Image for Hazel McNellis.
Author 6 books19 followers
June 20, 2017
Was mir gut gefallen hat...

Bisher habe ich mich vergleichsweise wenig mit Outlining beschäftigt. Allerdings merke ich mit jedem Buch, das ich schreibe, wie ich mir immer mehr Gedanken mache. Bis jetzt schreibe ich die Rohfassung runter und sitze danach umso länger vor der Überarbeitung, weil ich erstmal sehen muss, was zum Henker ich überhaupt produziert habe. 😱😅 Das ändert sich erst so langsam bei mir. Insofern ist das Buch von K.M.Weiland auf jeden Fall hilfreich.

Wer bislang nur wenig oder gar kein Wissen über Outlining hat, profitiert von ihrer "Step-by-Step-Anleitung", möchte ich meinen. 😊 Mir hat der Schreibstil gut gefallen und der strukturelle Aufbau des Ratgebers. Weiland holt den Leser genau passend ab und verliert ihn/sie zwischendurch nicht.

Besonders interessant fand ich ihre Beispiele für Charakter Interviews. Ich glaube, sowas werde ich in Zukunft auch mal probieren. ☺

Was mich störte..

Eigentlich störte mich ein bisschen, dass die Beispiele aus Weilands eigenen Werken so viel Raum einnahmen. Mir persönlich haben diese Beispiele nur wenig weitergeholfen, wenn ich ehrlich sein soll.

Ein bisschen schade war auch, dass einige der anderen Beispiele und Autoren in den Interviews mir persönlich unbekannt waren, sodass ich mit der Referenz nicht viel anfangen konnte, so gesehen. 🤔 Aber das ist eher meine eigene Wissenslücke. 😊

Fazit

Mir hat das Buch sehr gut gefallen und etliche Passagen daraus helfen mir persönlich auch weiter. Ich denke, ich werde es bestimmt noch häufiger zur Hand nehmen in Zukunft. 😊 Deshalb vergebe ich 4 ☆☆☆☆. 🖒☺
Profile Image for Ari.
740 reviews172 followers
September 29, 2019
It reminded me of a few lessons I'd learned in the past, it taught me some things that I frankly did not know, and it helped me understand some that I'd only known of in a cursory fashion. I am extremely glad that I picked up this book, and will certainly be looking for more of this author's work.
Profile Image for Yoanna.
110 reviews14 followers
April 11, 2021
I've started this book a couple of times since the date stated here - not because it didn't hold my attention, but because I wanted to give it my full attention and life kept getting in the way.

I'm glad I went through it systematically, taking notes and thinking about my outline throughout. I'm still weaning myself off of a long revision period, but because of it it was easy to imagine these instructions applied to my already finished MS. I'm a visual person, so being able to see how things would look later on helps, as did K.M.'s examples from her own and other people's books.

Overall, a useful read. Looking forward to using the work and digging into Structuring Your Novel.
35 reviews14 followers
March 28, 2013

I gave 5 stars for this book. People would notice that I give quite high rating for all the books that I listed here because I only buy books that are relevant to my passion. The books have to go through stringent "selection process". I usually put them on a wishlist first and then after a few weeks I will go back and review my selection before finally finalizing my purchase. So if and when I finally purchased some books, I know I've made the right decisions, that the books will serve my immediate learning needs. This book is one of the books that I really need in my journey to learn as much as possible about the craft of writing. It is one of the books that can steer any aspiring writers towards a clearer direction with their writing.

I bought this book, Outlining Your Novel by K.K Weiland because my "free style and liberal" approach to writing is not taking me anywhere so far. I am a rebellious soul inside. I don't like rigid structure and convention. I always feel that as a writer, I should make full use of whatever "poetic license" I have to just write in anyway I like.

Until recently I used to write in the spur of the moment, whenever inspirations come. If the inspiration is so strong I can write continuously for a long period of time. But most of the times my flow of ideas, my inspiration and my concentration are often distracted by daily chores, duties and other obligations. This is why I have quite a number of half-baked manuscripts written in several notebooks or stored in my laptops or pc.

I also realize that I won't go far if I don't put in place a certain system,a certain structure and a certain direction for my writing. Hence, I have bought this book with the hope that it will help me to understand how outlining can help me come up with complete manuscripts.

I started reading it yesterday. This book outlines the benefits of outlining and also share how successful writers use outlining techniques in their works.

I strongly recommend this book for any aspiring or published writers out there who need a sharper approach to writing their novels.


Profile Image for Judy Croome.
Author 12 books175 followers
March 25, 2012
Outlining is my weakest point as an author, because outlining (like two people running across a cricket pitch, when only the runs for one will count as a score!) has always struck me as a waste of precious creative time. Weiland’s excellent book has gone a long way to changing my mind.

Well-set out, easy to read and meticulously researched, Weiland’s professional advice is touched with a natural, appropriate humour that makes learning from this text a pleasure.

While Weiland gives solid, practical advice on how to make an outline work for you, she is not prescriptive. There’s an emphasis on the importance of finding a way of outlining that enhances your own creative process, rather than exhorting the reader to slavishly follow one “right” way of outlining. The inclusion of interesting interviews with several published authors about their outlining process underlines the main point of this book: having an outline is vital for a well-structured book, but the shape an outline takes is up to each individual author.

Another useful part of the book was the check list at the end of each chapter (my favourite checkpoint is from Chap 11: “Kick the cat off the keyboard”!!! HRH Theodorable may object to that advice!)

Although there was much in the book that, as an experienced author, I’ve already learnt along the way, Weiland has organized her writing advice in such a clear, focused and informative manner that, by the end of the book, I had a stronger logical understanding of much that I had done unconsciously in my writing. As Weiland points out, the best novels are those that perfectly blend rational, logical techniques of writing with the intuitive, creative art of writing. After having read this book, I feel better equipped to at least aim for this sweet spot in writing my next novel.

I highly recommend this book to experienced authors. For new authors, I would suggest it is essential reading.
Profile Image for Shaun Messick.
Author 4 books14 followers
June 20, 2012
I am an author, and I have discovered that when I write I need to devise a plan or a road map for the story to take shape. When I wrote my first novel, Worlds Without End: The Mission (Book 1), I used what the author, K.M. Weiland, termed “pantsing” – writing by the seat of your pants. Even though I was satisfied with the final product of “The Mission” using this method, I had to revise and edit the novel too many times to count. As a result, I wanted to find out how other authors outline their novels, and that’s when I came across Outlining Your Novel: Map Your Way to Success.

Mr. Weiland offers a lot of great suggestions on how to go about outlining your book. For instance, he states, “Write yourself the ‘perfect’ review before your story ever hits paper.” I did this for my next book, “Worlds Without End: Aftermath,” and it really helped. I wrote the review and the synopsis of the book before I started outlining. This helped me during the outlining process. I was able to visualize my story from the beginning to end. The outline that I completed, I believe, has made me a better writer because I am able to just write the scene that I have already formulated in outline form.

Some writers may worry that outlining locks them in to a story without revising. I found that this was far from the truth, using the suggestions that Weiland offers. When the story seemed to take a turn that I didn’t anticipate for the better, I simply adjusted my outline, taking out or adding certain scenes. This is certainly better than going back and rewriting the entire story from scratch.

I will definitely be using the ideas and suggestions offered by Mr. Weiland in my future projects. Moroever, I highly recommend Outlining Your Novel: Map Your Way to Success by K.M. Weiland for anyone who writes or wants to write a novel.

Profile Image for M.G. Edwards.
Author 10 books49 followers
July 8, 2012
K.M. Weiland’s book is a great read for writers who use outlines to plan novels and need help fine tuning their writing strategy. It’s also for those who are skeptical of the benefits of writing outlines. After reading this book, those who prefer to write by the seat of their pants may find themselves convinced that outlining is a better way to go.

The author makes a strong case for writing outlines and includes interviews with published authors at the end of each chapter that explain why many writers believe it is an important part of the writing process. She also offers discrete ways to outline a novel. I liked that this book goes beyond what lies within its pages to provide lists, templates, and links to external resources that help writers deal with challenges such as developing back stories. One list features interview questions writers can ask their fictional characters, while another ferrets out information about a novel’s setting. These are practical, concrete tools any writer can use to organize their thoughts.

If I have one quibble with the book, it’s that the author takes a strong stand in favor of outlining a novel, even though Ms. Weiland readily admits that some authors have found commercial and literary success writing without first charting their course. Still, it’s a good read for any writer to help them decide whether to do an outline.

I give Ms. Weiland’s book 5 stars and highly recommend it. It won’t outline your novel for you, but it comes darn close. It will put you a few steps closer to finishing your next outline.
Profile Image for Benjamin.
4 reviews2 followers
January 10, 2014
What Weiland describes as outlining is drastically different than what I consider it to be. This was a nearly 200 page description of what I would summarize as one writer's brainstorming process, a great part of which was essentially a lightly structured approach to stream of consciousness internal discussion. In order to arrive at the type of concise and ordered outline such as what an editor might request, Weiland has to later reduce notebooks full of self-directed monologue written in longhand into key points, while avoiding dead ends, backtracks, false starts, and probably sand traps and whirlpools. We're told this process could take weeks, if you highlighted the things you wanted to keep in advance. It's a process that must work great for Weiland, and there's nothing wrong with that, but I would still call it a book about brainstorming. Based on that understanding, I give it 3 stars (2.5 rounded up) for a few good ideas, as far as that goes. Much of it seemed to be straightforward common sense to this amateur dabbler, although sometimes it helps to state the obvious. Take that with a fist of salt. But that also means one could probably find most of the ideas in your average blog on writing craft and processes.
Profile Image for Elke Feuer.
Author 7 books68 followers
February 12, 2013
Great book! It really helped me flush out my outlining process and made me think about things I hadn't in the outlining stage. I highly recommend this book if you are a beginner finding their way or looking to improve your existing process.
Profile Image for Gillian Kevern.
Author 37 books189 followers
June 4, 2017
I read this in the hopes of getting myself back on track with two story projects that are fairly well developed but not quite there. I think it will be useful, but I think that most of the questions are more useful for someone at the very beginning of a project.
Profile Image for N.N. Heaven.
Author 6 books1,780 followers
October 18, 2018
A must-read and own for all writers. It opened my eyes to outlining and made me a better writer.
Profile Image for jiji.
230 reviews
December 31, 2019
I read this at the suggestion of a work colleague and I think it will be helpful. At least I hope it will be. I should start by saying that I think this book is slightly more helpful to those who write mystery, science fiction or fantasy (genres that require great attention to detail and in advance planning) but there are definitely parts that are applicable to any wannabe writer.

I love writing descriptive passages that focus on specific settings. I can write pages upon pages about a marsh or bike trail or small town. But when it comes to actual plot and dialogue...nothing happens. Because I encounter this rather monumental roadblock to writing, I usually quit whatever story I'm working on after it becomes apparent that I have no idea what's going to actually happen. One can only write so much about marshes or the configuration of a small town.

I actually created a nine-page outline of what I view as the most important takeaways I can apply to my own writing process. Some of my favorite pointers/instructions are as follows:

1.) Write yourself the perfect review before you write your story. Be specific. Why does the reviewer love your story? Focus on plot, arc, pacing, originality, characters, dialogue, etc.

2.) Write a single sentence that conveys the plot and the them, touching on characters, setting, central conflict, etc.

3.) As yourself questions once you have your main idea. What are 4-5 big moments that occur in the plot? What are some complications for each of these moments? Ask yourself what-if questions, such as: what if this character lived in Wisconsin? What if this character were a journalist? What if this character lost his father young, etc. Also use "maybe" questions to bring you more clarity.

4.) Keep motive, desire, goal, conflict and theme in mind at all times. A story needs action and/or a conflict.

5.) Don't be afraid to share too much of yourself in your stories. your most valuable gift is your unique world view. This one really hit home for me. I'm a very private, introverted person who tends to keep my darkest/deepest thoughts and beliefs to myself, and I have a visceral reaction to "giving too much away," which I think hinders my ability to write honest prose that connects and touches others.

6.) You should know your characters' backstories as your write your novel. Your audience doesn't need to know it, but you do. You need to know your characters very well.

7.) You can use setting/environment to show who your character is. You can use setting to affect the mood.

8.) Allow yourself the freedom to be disorganized, messy and to ramble. You can later edit your outline and create an abbreviated version to work from.

I know this all sounds a bit formulaic, but I think reading this book has changed the way I see the writing process. For some reason, I thought all real writers just sat down and started writing for hours on end without any kind of guidance. Maybe some do, but for people like me who love setting and character development but struggle with creating action/conflict, this kind of structure will likely be helpful. I highly recommend this book for anyone who feels overwhelmed by the writing process. I plan to incorporate many of its guidelines and suggestions into my own writing process, and will let you know how it goes!
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Author 1 book16 followers
November 29, 2018
There's nothing new in here but this book definitely turned me into a plotter, though I found only one useful advise in here for it. The thing is, I'm usually slowed down by minor details or my prose&dialogue, and I often go through writer's block when I don't know where to go; my first one or two drafts always go to waste; I also detest formal outlines.

The best advise I found in this book was to go for a judgement free road map in which you briefly describe what happens in a scene in the kind is casual language you use while texting or talking, and then order those around to find the perfect narrative structure. I have started doing these with bullet points too.

This sort of planning takes very little time, it does most of what the first draft helps me accomplish, but within a span of 1-2 hours, not months or years, and it recently helped me make significant progress in a couple of pending projects. These casual outlines also don't have the authority to dictate what I do once I start writing, but I don't get blocked anymore, now that I have these skeletons to work with. Hope this helps someone else too.
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