#FirstDraft60 Day 22 — Mapping and Outlining Your Story
When it comes to planning your story before you start writing it, there are two directions you can go: plotting (outlining) and road mapping. Both will get you where you want to go. In fact, road mapping is a great kick-off point to get to plotting. So we’re going to look at both today as we get ready to write an outline of our stories.
Road Map to Outline to Story in Six Stages
Yesterday, we discussed premise and how it’s more than just a story idea, but it doesn’t go as far as actual plotting. This is where the idea of a road map comes in.
Stage 1—I Have an Idea
- I want to drive from Nashville to Dallas.
- I want to write a romance novel.
Stage 2—General Geography
- I will need to take the interstate to Little Rock where I’ll get on another interstate that goes all the way into Dallas.
- I need a hero and heroine who meet & fall in love.
Stage 3—Basic Directions
- Take I-40 West out of Nashville through Memphis to Little Rock. In Little Rock, get on I-30 West toward Texarkana. Stay on I-30 West until you reach Dallas.
- My hero’s name is Stone and he just moved to Nashville. My heroine’s name is Alex and she’s an author. Stone and Alex meet. There are sparks, even though Alex is hiding something about herself from Stone. But there’s a conflict that comes between them—a conflict that could keep them from getting together. They overcome the conflict separating them and we get a HEA ending.
Stage 4—A Little More Detail
- Take I-40 West toward Memphis. Go through Memphis on I-40, and cross the Mississippi River into Arkansas. Just east of Little Rock, take I-440 West and connect to I-30 West toward Texarkana. Then just stay on I-30 you’ll get to Dallas!
- (from Stand-In Groom) A wedding planner thinks she is falling in love with a client. But he is a man with a secret. When the secret is revealed—the real identity of the man she’s planning the wedding for—he could lose her forever. After several conflicts that seem to finally tear them apart, she realizes he is the one she truly loves and will go to extreme lengths to make sure she doesn’t lose him. They reconcile and live HEA.
- Or a Seven Beat or other outline with basic information at each step.
Stage 5—Turn-by-Turn Directions
- Turn by turn directions with mileages, estimated times, and exit numbers—pretty much what you’d get printing out the driving directions from Google Maps before you leave on your trip.
- Your five- to seven-page synopsis or structured outline with most of the key conflicts, turning points, and at least a broad-overview summary of how the book ends. (“In five hundred feet, your destination will be on the left.”)
Stage 6—Only the Book Is More Detailed
- Turn by turn directions of how to get from your driveway to the driveway of your final destination. Map with mileages. Pictures of every city you’ll pass through. Road construction and speed limit zones marked. Places of interest to stop along the way—and the best restaurants and rest areas to stop at. Your GPS talking to you the whole way.
- A chapter-by-chapter synopsis; the Snowflake Method; a detailed outline of all major and minor events with character descriptions and setting information.
Map Your Ideas
Writing out your premise yesterday should have gotten you to around Stage 3 in this list—you probably know your general overview of your story, but not necessarily a lot of firm details.
Today, we want to move as close to Stage 5 as we can. And to do that, you might need to do some brainstorming. And Mind Mapping is a great tool for those of us who are visually oriented. Here are a few links to get you started:
- Mind Maps: What Are They and How Can You Use Them? by Joanna Penn on The Creative Penn
- How to Mind Map by Susan Gregory on YouTube
- Using Mind Maps For Creating Novels by Wendy van Camp on No Wasted Ink
Assignment 1: Write out/map everything you know is going to and/or needs to happen in your story (you can use a bulleted list, index cards/Post-it Notes, a mind map, or other method that’s helpful for you in brainstorming). It doesn’t have to be chronological—just write it down as the ideas come to you.
Time to Start Outlining
Once you’ve gotten all of those ideas written down, it’s time to figure out what structure will work best for you to pull it all together into a cohesive outline.
My preferred method of oulining is using the Seven Story Beats from Billy Mernit’s Writing the Romantic Comedy.
Here are links to some other outlining ideas, helps:
- Tools to Outline Your Novel: NaNoWriMo Tip #9 by Jason Boog on GalleyCat
- The Snowflake Method For Designing A Novel by Randy Ingermanson on Advanced Fiction Writing
- 8 Ways to Outline a Novel by Robbie Blair on Lit Reactor
- Outline Your Novel in Thirty Minutes by Alicia Rasley
- How I Outline! [3 Acts : 9 Blocks : 27 Chapters] by Katytastic on YouTube
- Scrivener Hybrid Outlining by J. A. Marlow on Vision: A Resource for Writers
- Create Story Maps Using PowerPoint by Wendy Russell on About/Tech
You’re more than welcome to Google other ideas for organizing/creating your outline. This barely scratches the surface.
Assignment 2: Take your list/cards/notes/mind map of story points from Assignment 1 and use one of the outlining methods linked above (or another that you’ve found or created) and create a structured outline of your story, including all of the details you know at this point.
Keep in mind—you’re just writing an outline at this point, not a synopsis. Keep it as simple as possible with key words/phrases and brief explanations of the actions/plot points.
Where does your outline fall in the six stages of road mapping? Do you feel like you know enough about your story at this point to be able to churn out the word-count you’ll need in order to complete your first draft in 30 days? What did this exercise show you about what you know about your story and what you need to figure out before you start writing?
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