Tag Archives: outlines

Fiction Writing Tips for Beginners: Super-Easy Outlines

Fiction Writing Tips for Beginners: Super-Easy Outlines

If you’re new to writing fiction, you may be struggling with outlines. You may even believe that you can’t create outlines – or that you don’t need to outline. You may be right. Maybe  you’ll get a flush of inspiration, and your book “writes itself.” That’s never happened to me, nor to any other writer I know, but it could happen. 🙂

Let’s look at some fiction writing tips for beginners. I’ve had lots of questions from readers of our Fab Freelance Writing Blog who are itching to try fiction, but aren’t sure whether they can; I said:

Here’s what’s always worked for me, and works for my students when they’re not sure whether they can write something or other. If you THINK you can, and you WANT TO, you can. What counts is your enthusiasm and excitement.

So, if you think you can, you can.

1. Start With an Image

I like to start my fiction with an image, rather than a bunch of words. In How to Write a Short Story in 5 Steps, I said:

You can start with a real image, if you like. Bestselling novelist Tracy Chevalier received her inspiration for her bestseller Girl With a Pearl Earring from Vermeer’s painting. I like starting with an image because a good painting or photograph conveys emotion; you can extrapolate a whole story from that.

Or, you can start with a mental image of a character who’s wonderful, but has a silly hangup (or a more serious one, but your story will need to be longer). She/ he gets over the hangup by the end of the story.

Why start with an image? Because it’s less restrictive. It opens your imagination; words tend to close it.

Here’s another reason to start with an image: an image has built-in emotion – if you choose the right image. Fiction is all about emotion. No emotion? You’ve got nothing. Your idea, no matter how wonderful, will fizzle out. Or you’ll have a bunch of weird emotions tumbling around, which you can’t get a handle on… and the novel or short story fizzles out.

You may get an idea for a story. Let’s say that we’re writing New Adult fiction. Our heroine falls in love with someone she’s only “met” on Facebook. Unfortunately, she’s fallen in love with someone who doesn’t exist. Someone created a fake profile, specifically to lure her into a trap.

2. Make a Simple List

You’ve got a little idea, and an image you’ve found in a magazine, or you’ve copied an image from Pinterest or an art gallery website.

Before you start writing to expand your idea, make a list of nouns. Any nouns which arouse emotion in you. Bestselling novelist Ray Bradbury was very fond of lists, and I am too.

Lists poke your subconscious mind and wake it up, and that’s all you want at this stage.

3. Create a Logline From What You Have

A “logline” is a single sentence which tells your story. Grab any TV program guide to get a sense of loglines. A logline tells you who, what, how, and why.

Here’s a great little template for a logline:

When [INCITING INCIDENT OCCURS], a [SPECIFIC PROTAGONIST] must [OBJECTIVE], or else [STAKES].

So, for our Facebook “fake” story, we could write:

When her boyfriend is murdered, 20-year-old college student Holly West must solve the mystery of her fake Facebook boyfriend or else take the chance that the murderer will come after her.

OK, I know it’s crappy, but work with me here. 🙂 I haven’t gone through the steps. I haven’t found an image, nor did I make a list. I just worked with the original seed of an idea, and can up with a quick logline. You’ll be able to do much better; just go through the steps.

4. Start writing: outline your scenes as you write

You may love outlines. If your creativity gets sparked by outlining, go ahead and write an outline now. Forget formal outlines like the ones you created in school, make a list of scenes. I use index cards, and Trello.

I’m a pantser at heart, so I usually start writing, once I have the logline. I want to get to know my characters. Once I’ve written a couple of scenes, I interview the hero and heroine, and then I outline the BIG scenes — the pinch points, if you’re working with 7-point plotting. Then I start writing again, outlining just a few scenes ahead.

If you’re new to writing fiction, try working with an image, making a list of nouns, and creating a logline from your initial idea. This is a super-easy way to outline, and to write fiction which sells.

Short Fiction Secrets: How To Write And Sell Short Stories

Short Fiction Secrets: How To Write And Sell Short Stories

$5.99

Want to write short stories? If you answered yes, that's excellent… Here's why. Today, you can make money writing short fiction.

More info →
Buy from Barnes and Noble Nook
Buy from Scribd
Buy from Kobo
Buy from Apple Books
Buy from Amazon Kindle
Plot Hot-Selling Fiction The Easy Way

Plot Hot-Selling Fiction The Easy Way

$5.99
Author:
Series: Selling Writer Strategies, Book 3
Genre: Writing

How To Write Novels And Short Stories Readers Love: You're about to discover the easiest, fastest, and most fun plotting method ever. You can use it for all your fiction, whether you're writing short stories, novellas or novels. Take control of your fiction now, and publish more, more easily.

More info →
Buy from Barnes and Noble Nook
Buy from Scribd
Buy from Kobo
Buy from Apple Books
Buy from Amazon Kindle

Resources to build your writing career

Get daily writing news and tips on the blog’s Facebook page.

Need help with your writing? Visit our online store, or check out Angela’s books for writers.

Writing Fiction: Show It, Don’t Blow It

Writing Fiction: Show It, Don’t Blow It

You’re writing fiction: a novel. You’ve exhausted your first burst of enthusiasm. You can’t figure out where the story goes next. You’ve got 10,000 words of nothing.

Sadly, outlining doesn’t help. You’ve written an outline, and it has all the appeal of a jar of baby food. It’s bland. There’s no spark. You don’t care about your characters. You don’t even care about them enough to dislike them.

Relax. This kind of thing happens often. Look on the bright side — you’ve got 10K words, and that’s something. Here’s why you’ve lost your way: you’ve stopped feeling the emotions you’re aiming to portray. It’s easy enough to get them back.

Start by planning.

Plan and plot, to boost your enthusiasm

As I’ve mentioned many times, I’m not a great fan of outlines. I prefer organic outlining, as we discuss in our Hot Plots program. When you use ordinary outlines, you’ll try to force your characters where they don’t want to go. You’re fighting your creative self, which knows what’s best for your story.

Go back to basics.

Think about:

  • The setup (approximately a quarter of your novel, in which you set up your story. After you’ve set things up, you’re moving to…
  • The midpoint — what it says. This is the first big turning point of your story, where everything changes. Your story goes in a new direction. Next you head for…
  • Story twist number 2. Another turning point. Your main character has tried to change. It’s not working. Things look black, and you’re heading for…
  • The showdown. The make or break. The big fight your character needs to win. The story winds down, with…
  • The resolution. The killer’s identified in a mystery. The world’s saved in a thriller, and it’s hearts and flowers in a romance.

When you consider the above way markers for your story, you’re not writing an outline. You’re giving yourself points to hit. Over time, as you write more short stories and novels, and read them as well, you’ll recognize these way markers instinctively.

SHOW it, don’t blow it: put yourself, and your readers IN your story

Get a big sheet of paper, at least A3 size. Or grab a whiteboard. Make circles on the board. List your main characters down the side.

Fiction is about people. People who CHANGE, over the course of the story. In your first circle, write your main character’s name, and his situation and major attribute at the start of the story.

It’s your challenge to show your main character’s growth, and change, throughout the story. A “plot” means nothing if your character doesn’t change. You’ve heard of the character arc, and character development. That means change.

Let’s say that at the start of your novel, a thriller, your main character, Lola, is a trader in a bank. She loves numbers. People make her shy, so she rarely stands up to anyone. She’s divorced with a small son.

Over the course of your story, you’ve got to show Lola change. She changes into someone who stands up for herself, and what’s right. She becomes a whistleblower: she saves the financial lives of hundreds of the banks’ small investors.

Using your sheet of paper, or whiteboard, start brainstorming scenes. Lola starts out as timid and becomes a heroine. What happens to her, and what does she do, along her journey?

When you’re done, slot your scenes into the basic “plot” we discussed above.

SHOW in every scene: see it, touch it, hear it, say it…

Now start writing a scene you want to write. Any scene. There’s no reason to write your story chronologically. Write any scene you like, from Lola’s point of view (POV) and BE Lola. Be there, in the moment.

If you can do that, your readers will be there with you. They’ll feel it.

Once you’re done with the scene, choose another scene, and write that one too. Keep BEING LOLA. When you feel it, you build your enthusiasm, and the words will flow.

Have fun… 🙂

 

Blurbs Sell Your Books: Craft Irresistible Blurbs, And Sell More Fiction And Nonfiction Today

Blurbs Sell Your Books: Craft Irresistible Blurbs, And Sell More Fiction And Nonfiction Today

eBook: $5.99

You can, when you discover the secrets of writing blurbs (book descriptions) which sell.

More info →
Buy from Scribd
Buy from Kobo
Buy from Barnes and Noble Nook
Buy from Apple Books
Buy from Amazon Kindle
Map It: For Writing Success — Fiction And Nonfiction Outlines Made Easy

Map It: For Writing Success — Fiction And Nonfiction Outlines Made Easy

eBook: $5.99

I developed the tactics and strategies in this book to help myself. My students have found them essential to producing both fiction and nonfiction almost effortlessly.

More info →
Buy from Apple Books
Buy from Barnes and Noble Nook
Buy from Scribd
Buy from Kobo
Buy from Amazon Kindle

Resources to build your writing career

Get daily writing news and tips on the blog’s Facebook page.

Need help with your writing? Visit our online store, or check out Angela’s books for writers.

Updated: February 19, 2018

Writing Your Novel: How to See in the Dark

Fiction Frenzy

I’ve had questions from several writers who are working with Fiction Frenzy as they make their daily word count goals for NaNoWriMo. The questions vary, but each and every one can be answered with one word: “outline”.

In Fiction Frenzy, I told you about Listing, which is another way of outlining. I prefer the term “Listing” because my brain tends to fry when I think about an outline. Thinking out outlines paralyzes many writers. Doubtless we were damaged way back in our school days. 🙂

Listing has many uses, beyond the standard uses for an outline.

For example, here’s what I said in Fiction Frenzy:

Generating Text (and Arousing Emotion) Using Lists

I start each writing session creating lists.

Today, I’m working on a scene in which my lead character first meets the antagonist in the novel I’m working with in our 30 days. So, I create a list: sunshine, clink of harness, creak of saddle leather, tired, sunburn, sound, fear, spooking horse…

Your lists help you to be in the novel, to hear the sounds, feel the emotions, see the sights. If you’re there, right in the action (we’ll talk about ACTION tomorrow), your reader will be there too. Your reader will feel what the characters are feeling.

Whenever I get stuck in a book, I make a list. I don’t think about it at all, I just start listing. Novelists tend to be either pantsers (“into the mist” writers, who just start writing) and diligent outliners, who need to know a lot about their characters and plot before their start writing.

I’m much like Keith Cronin, Writer Unboxed » The Big O, who says:

“I’m sort of a hybrid between a plotter and a pantser. I usually start a book with a clear idea of my main characters and the climactic conflict they will ultimately face, but I don’t go so far as to figure out HOW they’re going to face that conflict. I figure that by the time I get there, I’ll know my characters well enough to know what they would do. Sounds great in theory, but I’ve found it has twice led me to the dreaded 30K Speedbump.”

I’ve started books with just a situation, and even with just an image. I’m currently rewriting a novel that I started with a scene in which a woman makes a provocative statement. I loved the scene, but I’ve junked it in the rewrite. However, that scene did get me several characters, the the start of a plot.

A list helps you to see in the dark

Listing gets you started on your novel, and on each day’s writing sessions. Listing helps you to see in the dark.

This is because listing helps you to activate your right brain, especially if you use concrete items in your list.

Allow yourself to relax, as you list. Wait for images to arise in your imagination, and then write down what you see. If you use this technique, not only will you find writing painless, but you’ll look forward to your writing sessions every day.