Monday, March 20, 2017

Plotting/Outlining with Faith Blum

Hello! I have Faith Bum here with us to day to talk about plotting. Specifically, about outlining your novel. Now, I've never written an outline - I look at all that organization and my eyes glaze over - I'm a plantser, but I do encourage new authors to try it out for at least one book, to see if it's right for them.

Even if outlining isn't for you, there are great tips in this post that you can use for lower-scale planning as well.

Faith Blum is a lovely friend of mine, though I've not yet read any of her books. I have several on my kindle, and I've attempted the first one multiple times ... but then get distracted by all the shiny fantasies that I also have on my kindle. (I'm not really a western person.) BUT, I've heard from my Western-loving friends that these are some pretty good novels, so if Western's your genre, do give them a go.

Follow her on the Interwebs:

Faith also hosts a monthly three-day word war on Facebook. The last one just ended, but do look into attending the next. They're awesome fun!



All writers know there's a difference between outlining/plotting, pansting, and plantsing. I'm not here to discuss those differences, but rather one way to do outlining. What I have in this blog post is a slightly abbreviated version of K.M. Weiland's outlining tips in her book Outlining Your Novel.

Step 1: The What if Questions
These are questions that may or may not apply to your book. Things that could happen in the book, but may not actually happen. For example, here are a few "what if" questions I have for my book He Hideth My Soul (Orphans of the West 3). It's a book that isn't published yet, but one of the first I've actually outlined this way.


  • What if Otis got a hefty inheritance and could finally go to school to become an even better doctor?


  • What if Otis got the schooling and then went to Colorado to his silver mine and found horrible working conditions?


  • What if Otis fell in love with the nurse?


  • What if the mine manager's sister comes to escape her abusive fiance?

  • Step 2: What's Expected
    Similar to What if questions, these can be what will happen or some things that may not actually happen. They can also be ways to pinpoint areas where you can do what is least expected in the story.

    Step 3: Premise Sentence
    This is the absolute barest of bare bones of your story. They can also be called loglines. For example, here is my premise sentence for He Hideth My Soul: Now a fully educated doctor, Otis Miller goes to Colorado to see how his mine is going and finds horrible, dangerous working conditions for the miners.


    Step 4: Pre-outline Questions
    There are multiple questions you can ask before you actually do some outlining, but I only use a couple.

    1. What are the 4 or 5 big moments in your story?
    2. What are 2 complications for each moment?

    Step 5: Scene List
    This is a detailed description of all the scenes in your book. There are many ways you can do this. How much detail you put into the scenes is your decision.

    Step 6: Setting
    You can describe the setting in whatever way you choose that will be helpful. I found it very good for my book. This was the first time I described the setting of my books and I found it to help a lot.

    Step 7: Character Sketches
    This could be one of the most important things you do for your book. Finding out more about your characters can be fun or hard. Describing what they look like, what their personality is, what his motive is, his backstory, and so much more. You can find different character sketch questions in various places, but I have personally found the one K.M. Weiland provides in her book Outlining Your Novel to be the best one I have used yet.


    And there you have it. That is one way you can outline your novel. I would love to hear your thoughts on how you outline, what you found most helpful, or even why you've chosen not to outline.

    9 comments:

    1. Thank you for posting this, Kendra. Thanks also for mentioning the word wars. Here are the links to the two in April:

      13-15: https://www.facebook.com/events/1908225846111493/

      27-29:https://www.facebook.com/events/236985960106120/

      ReplyDelete
    2. I typically start outlining during the second draft (occasionally during the first) - I'm a big fan of rewrites, so I have to have SOME kind of outline so that I remember where I'm trying to take the story :D. Thanks for sharing this with us, Faith!

      ~ Savannah
      scattered-scribblings.blogspot.com

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      Replies
      1. I'm glad that outlining works for you so well. You're welcome!

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    3. Thanks for sharing this post! I don't outline (much), but I always find it interesting to hear about other writers' methods.

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      Replies
      1. I'm glad you appreciated it. I hadn't either until I read K.M. Weiland's book. I agree that it is interesting to hear other writers' methods.

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    4. I'm a plantser :P I tried to make a chapter-by-chapter outline for my first novel and it didn't really work.

      What I've done consistently for a few different novels is draft a blurb early on, list the scenes chronologically, do some basic research, write out the overall plot, create a plot by trying to avoid what's expected, and fill out character charts. Character charts and the scene list are my favorites to do. Everything else ... sometimes it's not as thorough as it could be ;)

      I definitely learn a lot about my novel and where I want to take it as I write, so I limit the time I spend planning. :)

      Thanks for sharing, Faith

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      Replies
      1. It sounds like you have a very good method worked out for your books. I'm glad you found something that works.

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    5. I love writing from an outline. Usually it's a loose outline though...

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      Replies
      1. Same here for both those statements. :)

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    Hi! Now that you've read my post, hast thou any opinions that thou wouldst like to share? I'd love to hear them!

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