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Do Writing Outlines Scare You?

Miranda Beverly-Whittemore’s writing outline

For lots of writers (myself included), the idea of plotting out a story before you write it is not only as overwhelming as writing the book itself, but it seems to disabuse the romantic notion of letting the characters and story reveal themselves over time. Three-time author Miranda Beverly-Whittemore, whose highly praised novel Bittersweet comes out May 13, 2014, insists “thinking about all of [your book’s] elements in a calculated way in advance of writing it” can be fun.

Beverly-Whittemore says John Truby’s book The Anatomy of a Story: 22 Steps to Becoming a Master Storyteller was particularly helpful to her as she put together the outline for her next book. In a post on Truby’s website, she explains that carefully imagining every aspect of the world she was creating beforehand made the actual writing process less daunting. She explains:

By the time I get to the outline phase in a novel, round about Chapter Eight or so of Truby, I’ve already got a thick notebook of what I’ve discovered by working with him. Here’s what I know:

My premise- what my novel is “about,” specifically what its moral argument is, and how every moment/character in the novel works in consort with that argument

My characters- their weaknesses, their desires (what they think they want), their needs (what they need to learn), how they work in connection with all the other characters in the novel, and much more.

My setting- how place and time influences every major moment in the novel

My novel’s basic arc- who is battling whom for what, where they’re doing it, why they’re doing it, and how it’s going to end.

See how much I didn’t know I knew? This is when I feel a little thrill! I didn’t know I knew so much, and I’m chomping at the bit to start writing.

Check out the full post here.


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