BSFW has been having an extended conversation about outlining for about a year, particularly the novel group. Arguments for and against have been made with compelling clarity. I for one am all for outlines, although for the longest time I was, to be honest, afraid of compacting my novel to its most
One reason I feared outlining was the possibility, that once I did, I’d find my story just didn’t work, and that others would see it too. Another difficulty was finding the right format; one that was helpful to me, the author, yet flexible and relatively easy for the critique members to follow with limited time constraints.
This struggle has resulted in some interesting answers. Mark Salzwedel, a new BSFW member, put up the synopsis of his novel Bauble based on my recommendations given in the letter announcing the dual meet-ups. It needed to include most of the following basic criteria:
1. Who your protagonist and antagonists are, & his/her/their main
3. The key plot points & or events in your story
4. (Optional) What kind of story is it? First Contact, space opera,
swords and sorcery, urban fantasy,etc.
Marks synopsis was clear, concise, fit on one page, and still managed to be exciting and sound like a book I wanted to pick-up and read. After reading his, I finally redid my outline. It took just under an hour and I’m pretty happy with the results. And that’s not all.
Recently, Brad Parks re-posted a great article on reverse outlining on the BSFW Facebook group. The article, by Aaron Hamburger, gave me the idea of incorporate reverse outlining into an outline template that would then allow me to go back and easily check on my story organization by answering questions like: How many words am I expending on this section? What part of the story it? What job is this section doing?
That way, I just get to focus on writing a great story.
I've attached the outline template here for you to download. Let me know if it works for you, and any thoughts to make it better. Consider this open source.