Do you love writing fiction, but hate writing outlines? This can present real challenges. I’m a pantser, so minimal outlines suit me.
I have a trick which will help you to create a minimal outline which will not only help you to write your ebook (or book, same thing), but will also help you to sell it.
Not a pantser? Love outlines? If you love outlines, you can expand on your minimal outline to create an outline which is as detailed as you like.
Writing fiction from the end: start with your blurb (book description) so that you can publish faster
I met a friend for lunch last week. Since I hadn’t seen her over the holiday period, I was eager to know what was happening with her novel. She’s new to self-publishing.
“I’m stuck on the blurb. I’ve been putting it off so much that I’m really frustrated,” she said.
So I shared a trick with her which not only makes it easy to outline your fiction, but also eliminates this type of procrastination.
“Write your blurb first,” I suggested. (Your blurb is your ebook’s description, which appears on the product page on Amazon.)
If you’re wondering how a blurb helps you to outline, let’s look at the process step by step.
1. Grab a image, or an idea, which speaks to you
I like imagining my plot based on an image. This post on outlining tells you why: “a good painting or photograph conveys emotion; you can extrapolate a whole story from that.”
It’s very effective. For example, recently I bought a photograph from a photographer on Facebook. It’s an image of Edinburgh castle, taken from a street in the Old Town. Sooner or later, I know I’ll be writing a novel, starting with that image. It’s got immense atmosphere and is evocative.
You can find great images on Pinterest and elsewhere online, or use one of your own photos.
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.
2. Write a blurb, starting from the image (or idea)
My beginning blurbs, which I consider my basic outline, are as minimal as my “full” outlines.
For example, if I wanted to create a blurb for a historical romance using my Edinburgh castle photo, it’s easy… Here we go.
It’s dusk. The cobbled streets of Edinburgh Old Town are quiet, as people eat their evening meal; the children have been called inside. Suddenly, there’s a loud shriek. Our heroine, who’s works in one of the big houses, looks around as she hurries home…
Now I have a setting, a character, and a situation. If I wanted to go on and write my blurb, I could write it in less than ten minutes.
You may or may not use your “starter” blurb as the book’s description when you publish. However, having this blurb helps when you complete your novel. You won’t get stuck, because the hard work of your blurb is already done.
Most importantly of all, you have a map of where your story is headed.
3. Outline the scenes which set up the novel in broad strokes
Your novel’s set up is the first 25 to 30 per cent of the novel. You capture your hero/ heroine’s ordinary life. Then the first plot point arrives. You introduce the “big” question of the novel.
In our castle example above, our heroine suspects that her employer is a murderer. Yikes! She’d leave, but she’s a nursemaid. How can she leave a baby with a man who may be a madman? The story question is — is our heroine working for a murderer?
4. Decide on the midpoint twist: begin the challenges of the novel
Once I have the setup, I decide on the midpoint twist of the plot.
This “twist”, where everything changes, happens at the midpoint, of course. In many romances, at the midpoint the hero and heroine make love for the first time. Your main character is a different person from who she was at the beginning of the novel.
In my castle novel, at the midpoint our heroine discovers that no, her employer isn’t a murderer, but he’s on the track of the murderer… Our heroine doesn’t know it, but she’s already falling in love with this man, her employer…
This is starting to appeal to me — one day I might write this novel. 🙂
5. What’s the ending image? Write two sentences about the final scene
With the midpoint twist decided, I like to outline the final scene of the novel. I tend to make this outline of the final scene very detailed — I usually end up writing a good part of the scene. I’ve found that this helps me to plot the rest of the novel.
And you’re done. This is as much of an outline I need to start writing. You may need a great deal more. Put your photo where you can see it as you write. You’ll find that ideas for the final 40 per cent of your novel emerge as you start building your characters.
Try this simple strategy for writing fiction…
You’ll love it. 🙂