When in the course of revising your story you come upon an insurmountable impediment to the furthering of your plot, or to your characters movements, it may become necessary not to cut the ties which bind you and your story, but to write an outline.

I’m a pantser and pantsers naturally abhor outlines. Luckily outlines come in many forms. What I did was follow a very loose format that J.K. Rowling did for one of her Harry Potter books. Hey,why settle for anything less than the best?

Rowling took a sheet of lined loose leaf paper and made a grid. She listed the months of Harry’s school year down the left hand side of the paper and characters/incidents along the top. In this way she could fill in the squares and make sure Harry and Co. were led to the right place at the right time to meet with Voldemort, or whoever, when the story required it of them.

If outlining is not beneath J.K. Rowling I reasoned, then why not try it myself?

I took a sheet of poster board and graphed it into squares the same size as the post-it notes I planned to strew the whole thing with. My story currently in revision takes place in the space of one week, so down the left hand side of the board I put the days of the week. Characters and situations ran along the top. I went through the scenes I had most recently revised and plotted them on my board. Back story went behind the post-its onto the board and current events went onto the post-its so they could be moved as needed.

So, did it help? It did. I was able to see the story, as far as I had revised it, at a glance. Amazed at how easily I could tell where something needed to happen, I made it happen. Now only halfway through this revision, and the outline only halfway through that, I saw that the thread of a sub-plot could be made stronger and that character enlarged to amplify the denouement.

Changes were made right away onto the hard copy I had on hand to plot information onto my graph. That is a revision in itself.

I’m looking forward to more plotting on the outline as I go along with the revision. The outline will probably progress faster than I can revise my scenes, so whereas the scenes had defined the outline I can tell that the changes that I’ve made will help the outline to define the scenes yet to be revised. Hope that made sense. Somehow it does to me.

Added bonus, this exercise should make the following revisions easier.

Will I become a bona fide plotter? Well, I don’t think I can write a story by outlining it first, but at this point I feel an outline such as this one helps to find and tie up those loose and flimsy threads that run through the story. And that’s good.

About Eleanor Ingbretson

Native New Yorker. Transplanted to New Hampshire years ago, but still considered a flatlander by the neighbors. Writer of fantasy and mystery and whatever else takes my fancy.

Posted on July 31, 2015, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Can’t wait to see your outline board! I’ll show you mine if you show me yours.


  2. Yes, it is good and yes, it does make sense. Good job Eleanor.


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