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  • Writer's pictureArie Frazier


Updated: Apr 21, 2019

When I started writing like years and years and decades ago, I didn’t even know what outlining was. I had an idea (usually just a character who was basically me with whatever slight difference in my appearance I wanted for myself at the time) and I would just start writing and hope that the story would naturally appear. Guess what, it didn’t. This is why I’ve started an untold number of books (I knew nothing about beats or story structure or anything like that. Even though I read, a lot. I assumed other writers were just better at what they did than I was and that was how they finished books) and I’ve only finished exactly three.

Then, I discovered YouTube and, specifically, AuthorTube. I discovered writing advice videos and craft books and all of these things made so much sense to me. Outlining and story beats and acts. And then I knew, without a doubt, I was a plotter. Like hardcore. So I thought I would share my outlining process, for anyone who is interested. I know I love learning how other people outline, I take a little bit from this person and a little bit from that person and mush them together in an amalgamation that works for me.

Out of all the videos I’ve watched and blogs I’ve read, I’ve tried many different outlining methods and come up with six steps that I have to do every time I start a new WIP.

1. Brain dump- pretty obvious, right? This is where I just take a blank notebook (yay for having an excuse to buy a new notebook!) and write anything and everything I can think of that may or may not end up in my WIP. I write this in pen and I don’t scribble anything out or censor myself in any way. This is just where I can put any thoughts, good or bad about the story. If I get stuck and I don’t feel like I have enough, I use the “what if?” question to help prompt some more ideas. The most important thing to remember at this stage is not to censor myself, I write everything down even things that are ridiculous. I never know what is going to prompt a good idea for the book.

2. Organize- after the brain dump, I go through with a highlighter and pick out the parts that I think are actually good and will make it into the book. Then I will write these down in the same notebook in the order I think they will happen (obviously, nothing is set in stone yet.)

3. Save the Cat! Writes a Novel – this is something I have only recently discovered, but it has been amazing. I take my semi-organized brain dump, write out the beats that I know the story needs and fit the parts of the brain dump into the beats. If there are any beats I don’t have a scene for I can usually figure them out or look through the brain dump again and see if there is something there I missed that will work for that beat.

4. Notecards – I will write each scene out on a notecard, in chronological order. Not a lot to say about this one. It's pretty simple, take a notecard, write the scene on it.

5. Timeline – I like to print off a blank monthly calendar for however many months the book is covering. Then I will fill in the days with the events that happen that day. I do this to make sure that the timeline makes sense. If it doesn’t I will have to go back and do some adjusting.

6. Scrivener – My final step before starting to draft is opening a new project in Scrivener and going to the notecard function (yes notecards again!). This time I will write out the scene (a copy of the notecard that I wrote by hand) but I will also add in the date and time the scene takes place and who is going to be in the scene.

And that’s it. That’s my outlining process. Pretty straightforward and uncomplicated.

Outlining helps me enjoy my entire writing process much more. I know it’s not for everyone, and I’m not here to crap on anyone who is a pantser. If you can write like that, more power to you. It just does not work for me, nothing comes together the way I want it to and honestly, it stresses me out. In a couple of weeks I will give an overview of the rest of my writing process. Not gonna lie, I break a few writing rules, but you know what they say about rules being made to be broken. That works for writing, right?

I hope you have a great day. Remember, every day to; read, write and love.

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