After reading “Outline your Novel in Thirty Minutes” by Alicia Rasley in the Article of the Month blog, I realized my current outline was basically useless. No wonder my writing had been stalled! Applying this exercise to my work-in-progress created a new outline that is basic, but also concrete, coherent, specific, and ten times better.
Nine important questions cover key points that most writers know are essential to story building, but I found the way Rasley orders these points helps form an actual outline. When you do this exercise, she suggests you set a timer for thirty minutes. Write freely, without your critical editor self.
1. What makes your protagonist unique? What are his/her strengths? How do they backfire?
2. In start of the novel, what is she on the brink of doing? Why? What does this represent?
3. What external situation must the protagonist participate in throughout the story? Does this connect or interfere with #2?
4. What is her goal in this story, and how does it connect with situation she’s in- or does it interfere? Is there a deeper, yet unknown, motivation?
5. What external conflict or problem does the situation present? How can it be resolved?
6. List at least 3 obstacles in the way of resolving this conflict.
7. How will she grow as she confronts these obstacles?
8. What do you want to happen by the novel’s end?
9. What can happen to the protagonist against her will to make your ending happen?
Resolving the conflict
I had an idea for a major conflict, but didn’t yet know how to get to that conflict, or exactly what might happen as a result. I decided to try Rasley’s method and was amazed at what I came up with. Now I have a much better idea of actual scenes I need to write, and why I need them, which in turn, has me excited about writing.
If you have a work-in-progress you’re struggling with, give Outline your Novel in Thirty Minutes by Alicia Rasley a try. The original post goes far beyond the steps I’ve listed in helping you flesh out the story, so it’s worth visiting the blog. It’s also helpful to read the examples she offers after each of the nine steps.
What are you waiting for?!
Linda K. Sienkiewicz is the author of In the Context of Love: a new contemporary fiction about love, lust, and family secrets.
Angelica Schirrick had always suspected there was something deeply disturbing about her family, but the truth was more than she bargained for.
“Linda K. Sienkiewicz’s powerful and richly detailed debut novel is at once a love story, a cautionary tale, and an inspirational journey.” ~ Bonnie Jo Campbell, author of National Book Award Finalist, American Salvage, and critically acclaimed Once Upon a River, and Mothers, Tell Your Daughters