Outlining Methods

The Snowflake Method– A systematic method of outlining, this one starts with characters and eventually leads to a spreadsheet list of all of your scenes. (Speaking of which, here’s a Scene List Spreadsheet in Google Drive to use with the article, you can Make a Copy to your own Google Drive, or just plain download it in whatever your Spreadsheet format of choice is.) Here is a video of Randy explaining it.

Libby Hawker’s Take Off Your Pants Method– Libby wrote a whole book about becoming a plotter instead of a pantser, and her methods are pretty impressive. Ultimately I find her to be a variant of Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat story beats, but she has some interesting ideas of her own and this one is highly recommended.

Michael Moorcock’s How to Write a Book in 3 Days Method– Is basically a more detailed version of my “Chinese Method“. Moorcock’s approach is to assemble everything you need beforehand, even lists of equipment, characters, places, and random stuff, have a rough outline based on the Lester Dent formula, and then attack your keyboard with the fury of a great typhoon until your book is finished. Fantasy writers should definitely check this one out.

Brandon Sanderson’s Can You Go Into Depth About Outlining? – Where the best-selling fantasy author goes into detail about the topic of outlining and the methods he uses when he’s planning his epic fantasy novels. As a teacher, he naturally goes through the process in detail and breaks it all down step by step. Useful for new writers or for those interested in learning more about outlining any kind of fiction. A helpful Reddit poster did a quick synopsis version of it you can find here.

Reimena Yee’s Onion Method For Outlining Graphic Novels is one of the more interesting approaches I’ve seen to planning a story in a while. At first I thought it was going to be another take on the Snowflake Method, but I quickly discovered her approach is something very different. Not only that, it’s a more character-centered approach to planning a story than most of what you see online. My own comments on this method are here.

The MICE Quotient is a method proposed by writer Orson Scott Card and later championed by writer Mary Robinette Kowal of the Writing Excuses Podcast. Basically it’s a method for figuring out what goes in Act 1 and Act 3 and making sure they mirror each other. This method has been very helpful for some writers. Give it a try!

25 Ways to Plot, Plan and Prep Your Story– This should be your first stop in trying to find an outlining style that works for you. While irreverent and profanity laden, Chuck Wendig does a great job of laying out the most common methods of story prep. The only flaw with this otherwise beautiful piece is that his descriptions of the methods are pretty bare-bones, so you’re going to have to go looking for more detailed examples in some cases.

The Phase Method– A unique method where you turn your story into a series of mini-beats and write them up in stream-of-consciousness point-form based around key ideas. It sounds weird, but if you’re a more visual or dialogue-based person, or a poet, this might be a method that could work well for you

Speaking of Mind Mapping, I’ve found two noteworthy approaches to using mind mapping to plan stories. Paul Donovan Campos‘ method and this one from No Wasted Ink. I should note that most mind-mapping methods are more brainstorming and less about organizing, but the No Wasted Ink approach is a step by step one for putting together a solid book foundation.

Even if you hate the idea of planning ahead, you might find Five Ways for Pantsers to Plan Their Stories a useful article to check out. It’s possible to plan ahead for the bumps in the road without killing all the surprise if you just do a little work ahead of time.

%d bloggers like this: