Listen to my latest short story "The Forest Trail"

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Monday, December 16, 2013

More Organic Outlines

My Novel Outline on One Page
I've been studying story structure so much that I think I've been trying to use it too much when planning and writing a story. It may just be in one respect - word count. I've been deciding on a word count before really fleshing out the story. I think that's a mistake. It's one thing to decide your story may be a short story rather than a novel. It's another to choose a word count and then break the story down and put it all into place from there. That said, I do need to try and narrow down a word count so I can put the right parts of the story in the right places. It kind of helped me because then I knew that say the end of chapter 6 would be the end of Act I in my novel. That's really good to know, but I'm thinking I should start with getting the story down in a bare bones outline first, then decide on word count. Certain things should happen at certain parts of the story. If I don't know how long the story is going to be then I don't know when I'm halfway through and the characters should stop reacting and start actively fighting back towards the problems keeping them from achieving their goals. I won't know when I'm at 25% and the characters should be thrust into a different world or have their world flipped on its head. 

As you can see in the image above I decided I wanted my novel to be 60K words so with each chapter at 2,500 words that meant 24 chapters. It was really awesome and exciting to in a small way see my whole novel on one piece of paper before writing it. This is something I want to do every time from now on, but do the following first. Get the story down from start to finish just in a rough outline form. Like one sentence for each scene. Then break it up into what I think will be the chapters. From there I can guess at the word count of the book by guesstimating the word punt of each chapter and adding them up. That might help me have a better more organic way of fleshing out the story rather than deciding on a word count then breaking up the story and inserting all the right parts where they're supposed to go. A story needs to be however long it demands to be. I think story structure is THE thing that is going to take my stories from having great scenes but doesn't work as a book to novels worth publishing - but I still need to let the story roll out organically and be as long as it needs to be. My stories as I've written them in the past did not have certain things happen at certain parts of the story and it hurt the stories. Story structure has helped me see many times what was wrong with a story or why I was stuck and helped me figure out how to fix it.

Image Source: http://cliffordgarstang.com/?p=4363


What are your thoughts? What is your process for outlining? How much do you think about word count before you start your story? Thanks for stopping by.

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