Team Pantsers is still my tribe. That being said, I have discovered that if I want to make it out of the 20,000-30,000 word range I need to have at least a loose outline.
Is this a ten page, rise and fall, breaking down each and every scene into three parts and the climax into the Seven Necessary Points outline? No. Oh my Lord no. It’s a two page general outline that breaks the intended plot (that’s all of it, not just one scene) into four parts. It helps me keep the general thrust of where I’m going for each part firmly in mind. I look at it as rungs in a ladder, getting me from the beginning of the plot to the ending by putting in the steps I need to get there.
Without this general outline I was wandering in all different directions, splattering words onto the page without any links between them, wasting a lot of time going back and foreshadowing after I figured out where it was heading.
To me this outline is a good mix between pantsing and common sense. I like the one I found with the acts because it keeps each step in the front of my mind as I wander within the guidelines I’ve set for myself. And it’s easy to change as needed.
The outline I found was from the Writer’s Digest Outline to write a whole novel in 30 days. (Haha yeah right Writer’s Digest, this will not be done in 30 days. But thanks for the outline.) It breaks your plot down as follows. Act 1-initial hook to the turning point, what that point is and why it’s there. Act 2 (part 1)-temporary triumph to new problem and where it came from. Act 2 (part 2)-reversal/solving of problem to new turning point and why that’s happening now. Act 3-new turning point becomes the final obstacle that will be overcome in the climax, the aftermath of that climax and all of the wrapping up.
I used the At-a-Glance outline. If you like the sound of it, you can find it here. They have enough outlining resources on this page to make even the most intensive plotter happy as a Captain Jack with a trunkful of rum.
The other resource I found that is amazing and you should go check it out is Duolit, a self-publishing help website. It says it’s on hiatus until further notice but I found this gem in the archives from 2012 that I will share and if you use it be sure to check out the website and drop the creators a line because they obviously worked hard on these templates and deserve some virtual high-fives. This site includes free, downloadable templates for character profiles and how to choose your writing perspective. Eureka!
featured image: stocksnap.io & Sergei Soloviev