Many authors wonder, ďWhat is the right way to outline my story?Ē There are many suggested methods available, and the one that probably sticks most in your mind is what you learned in school: start at the beginning.
|Just because you're "supposed" to write in order doesn't mean out of order won't work.|
As youíve probably experienced, starting at the beginning of an 80,000-word novel and working your way to the end doesnít always work. Itís too easy to get frustrated and give up only a few thousand words into the project. The very beginning of your story might start out as a dramatic and exciting chapter, but what happens after that, when the characters stop fighting with each other and start introducing themselves to the reader in a less climactic way?
Many novels end here, when the writer gets bored and canít trudge on any farther. The result is another unfinished project on the writerís to-do list and a potential bestseller gone to waste. How can you maintain your interest in the story without giving up the integrity of a well-written piece? Write it out of order.
When you first get an idea for a story, practice writing a summary. Write a description of the story as you would tell it to someone else. Include your thoughts for how it starts out, what happens in the middle, and how it ends. As you are writing your summary youíll notice that you get a little more detailed in some areas than in others. These are your natural high points, the juicy parts of the story that a reader gravitates to. They are also usually the easiest parts to write because they are so exciting.
Once you have a summary written, start writing whichever part excites you most. Maybe you want to begin with an action packed first chapter, or canít wait to get to the romance scene. Sometimes itís easiest to start at the end and create your basis for everything that happens up to that point. If you canít think of anything interesting to say between the time Bob robbed the bank and got home, skip on to something else. Start wherever you please, and when you run out of energy, stop.
The next time you pick up your story, instead of forcing yourself through a part that doesnít interest you, jump to another high point. Write about two characters arguing in a restaurant, or the thoughts that are going through the villainís head. Create a fantastic technological device that will define the future of humanity, or that gory accident scene that sets the basis for the main conflict. It doesnít matter if these juicy sections are in the beginning, end, or middle of the book, just write them. Once you run out of energy, stop, and when you start writing again, repeat the process.
I rarely write stories in the order of which they are read. In fact, I rarely write articles in the order of which they are read. I jump around from part to part, writing what I feel like writing at the time, and filling in the blanks as I go. This is an especially effective way to get your initial ideas down on paper. Once the big points are in place, you can add all the less exciting, yet still structurally important, details. In the end it will be necessary to close the gaps between high points, but by that time your story will be so well developed that the words should come naturally. If you practice this every day, youíll automatically learn to trail into and out of the high points, leaving a short gap which can easily be filled.
Your editor and publisher will see the finished book, not bits and pieces from how you wrote it in the first place. This is important to keep in mind. When you are interested in the story, it comes out in your writing. Ignore anyone who says it is only an undisciplined writer who canít force themselves to work from start to finish. The beginning to end mentality is an unnecessary pressure to put on yourself. Keep yourself entertained and your creative energy high; your best work will come out in the end.
Kimberly Dawn Wells is a creative opportunist with interests in several areas of business and writing. She is currently Editor of Squidoo.com's weekly SquidU Review and Editing & Publishing Topic Editor at Suite101.com. In addition to publishing several of her personal writing projects, Kimberly seeks to fill the gaps in today's offering of published non-fiction. http://www.kimberlydawnwells.com/