Teachers Write! 6/11 Mini-Lesson Monday

Good morning!  Before we get to Mini-Lesson Monday, we have some winners to announce for our EYE OF THE STORM giveaway. Drum roll, please…

 …Cindy Hundley, Carol Ann Osler, Lisa Rosenman, Stacy Dillon, and Catherine Flynn!  Please email me (kmessner at kate messner dot com) with your name & mailing address, and Walker/Bloomsbury will send out your books. If you didn’t win (sorry!) but want to purchase EYE OF THE STORM, you can click here to order from your local independent bookstore.

In addition to our Monday Mini-Lesson, remember that author Jo Knowles offers a Monday Morning Warm-up on her blog to start each week, so be sure to visit her if you’d like another idea for free writing today.

Now for today’s topic…

Outlining: When, Why, & How…

  …with guest author Sally Wilkins.  Sally is a New Hampshire author and research lover who has written both nonfiction and early readers. Check out her books here.

We’ve probably also all heard that writers should create outlines for their work – even for their fiction! We know that we’re supposed to be able to state the theme and summarize the plot of our books in a single sentence. We’ve heard expressions such as “If you don’t have a map, you won’t know whether you’re headed toward your destination” or “without a recipe, you’re just throwing in the ingredients and hoping something edible emerges.”

 And most of us have probably felt the paralysis of trying to codify our freedom-loving creativity into that oh-so-structured outline format, and wondered, simultaneously, both “How?” and “Why?”

Some authors swear by their outlines, many others will flatly state that they don’t outline. By which they generally mean that they don’t do a Roman/Uppercase/Arabic outline of their book or article before they start writing. Scratch the surface of that declaration, and you’ll almost certainly discover some other way of planning and organizing their material – something that doesn’t look or feel like an outline, but works like one.

A writer’s outline may take the form of a calendar or a timeline. It may resemble a flowchart or, indeed, a road map (or a set of directions printed out from the internet). For a picture book, the storyboard is a very common form of outline. Most important, a writer’s outline is not a static document, created before the writer begins to write and followed, point by point until the end. A writer’s outline is a dynamic tool. In the end, the finished work will have internalized the structure of the outline, so that a student told to make an outline of the book (especially if it is non-fiction) will be able to do just that, distilling the contents into that old familiar format. But that’s the finished product!

So let’s go back to the beginning and see how the writer’s outline works.

Every piece begins with an idea. The idea may be a theme or a topic (assigned pieces often begin this way). It may be a character, an event or a landscape the writer wants to explore. The very first outlining that the writer does looks a lot like jotting down notes: capturing random thoughts as they occur, adding bits and pieces of information she already knows and reminders of pieces she’ll need to research or discover. The bits may include names and descriptions of characters, snatches of dialog, one-sentence summaries of important information (with references, we hope), even photographs torn from magazines. Sometimes this jotting is an intentional, structured effort (as it will be in a classroom). Often it happens over time, frequently while the writer is working on other things, resulting in a file folder full of notes scrawled on the backs of old drafts, assorted pieces of notebook paper and stationary, and yes, envelopes and napkins. When the writer is ready to begin the project, these random bits get grouped together – maybe by character, maybe in chronological order, maybe as stops along a journey. Although the groups may not be labeled with Roman numerals, they are, in fact, the headings of an outline. In a classroom setting, you could ask students to create that outline from the groups and bits and pieces of information – but you would need to make it clear that this is not a finished product, because it is very likely that there will be A’s without B’s and all kinds of other missing parts to these outlines. Give yourself that same instruction – this is a work-in-progress tool. Leave lots of blank space in each section, so you can include new material as it comes along.

This early outline not only helps you think about the structure of your writing, but highlights the places where the material is unbalanced. In a non-fiction piece, this will point out places where you need more research. In fiction, you’ll see gaps in your narrative, characters that need developing, plot breaks where you need to construct a transition. (An important observation for those who write picture books and short form pieces – the outline may in fact be longer than your manuscript!)

Timeline for a biography that was shorter than its outline!

This is the point where the “I never outline” and the “I must outline” writers generally diverge. You may choose to fill in those gaps right then, so that when you begin to write you do in fact know every episode in your plot or every concept in your article. Or you may trust the outline to remind you that you need to go back to them later, and begin writing with only that bare skeleton of an “outline” as a guide. (Many writers don’t look at it again until they complete the first draft.)

As you continue to accumulate material you’ll create another kind of outline (or your original skeleton will morph into one). Building the structure of the “chapter” outline goes along with the process of mapping your work in your mind. Will it move chronologically, geographically, or thematically? How will you transition from one section or chapter to the next? For this outline your headings may be possible opening sentences, bullets or titles. Under each heading you’ll note the scene, the characters, and the action you’ll be describing there. You’ll note what information you’ll be including, and may decide some things need to be introduced earlier or held until later to improve the flow or balance of the work. When you actually begin to write, you may find yourself writing the middle of the piece first, then the scene leading to the climax, circling around to fill in the blank places later. An outline allows you to do this: you don’t have to write the book or article in the order that your reader will read it.

Your outlining will continue as you begin to write – the outline and the manuscript will interact, each illuminating the other.

Always, the outline remains a tool, not a dictator. As you write, the work may turn in unexpected directions. New characters may show up and demand a part. A question from a critique group member may make you rethink your underlying assumptions. Write on! You can always go back and adjust the outline. Move the pieces around. Combine some, expand others, prune and remove parts that don’t work. Contrary to the oh-so-neat finished product, outlining is a messy business. (Some writers like to put each section on an index card or post-it note, so they can move them around more easily.)

When you have finished the first draft, do another outline – this one from the text. This outline will become a useful tool in your revisions, highlighting problem areas and enabling you to see the overall structure of your work. You can look more dispassionately at the outline/summary of each chapter and say “is there enough action here?” and “does this move the plot?” than you can when you’re reading the words you’ve lovingly set down on paper. With each successive draft, the outline will become tighter and cleaner. Eventually you will be able to label it “Chapter synopsis” and include it in your book proposal!

Assignment for this week:

If your project is at the idea stage, do a brain-dump, jotting down all the random bits and pieces. Begin to sort them into logical groups. Create a rough outline (or timeline, or map, or flow chart) from these groups.

If you already have a work in progress draft, create an outline from the text. Look for gaps and bulges in the outline. Think about (and jot down) how you can smooth and balance those problem areas in the next draft.

And a note from Kate…

If you don’t have one major project for the summer but you want to practice outlining and see how it all works, try creating an outline of one of your favorite books. When I was writing EYE OF THE STORM, I really wanted to make it fast-paced for kids who love action. Before I started writing my thriller, I sat down and studied the pacing in a book I admired for its pacing, THE HUNGER GAMES. I made a chapter-by-chapter outline and learned a lot about why we can’t put that book down. It’s a fun exercise!

And remember…outlines take all kinds of forms. Here’s another example from Sally, with story elements on a calendar.

And here’s a blog post I did on outlining/planning a while back called, “Real Authors Don’t Plan…Or do they? An open letter to Tyler.”  It shows all the different kinds of planning & outlining I did for my upcoming mystery, CAPTURE THE FLAG.

Outlines are kind of tricky to share in comments, but feel free to ask any questions you have in the comments for this post, or stop back and let us know how it goes!

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99 Comments

  1. Posted June 11, 2012 at 5:37 am | Permalink

    Come on Kate, this feels like actual work…on a Monday morning! 🙂

    Actually though, it’s exactly what I need to do and have been avoiding. Thank you. I particularly like the advice of outlining a book you admire first. I think I’ll do Witness by Karen Hesse, since I am wrestling with the form of narration I want to take on–prose or verse–and then mine. I also like the index card idea–it allows structure, but presents flexibility.

    But during the last week of school? Not so sure it will be done in its entirety…

  2. Posted June 11, 2012 at 5:43 am | Permalink

    I do like using outlines for writing projects, even basic ones. I think it helps keep a structure going, but I have to remind myself (and my students) that sometimes a better idea comes along, and it is OK to take that alternative path. An outline is just a map, but other adventures might unfold outside of that map. I decided to play around with outlining for my morning routine. — Kevin)

    An Outline for My Morning Routines

    I. This Is For the Birds
    * Dream dissipating
    * Eye opening
    * Birds chirping
    * Clock checked
    * Groan emitted

    II. The Long Walk Downstairs
    * (Elusive) Socks found
    * Dog avoided, on stairs
    * Light switch clicked
    * Eyes blinking, blinking

    III. The Coffee Pot
    * Water poured
    * Filter stuffed
    * Coffee spooned
    * Red light on: good

    IV. Shower >/b>
    * Water Hot
    * (then) Water Cold
    * (then) Hot/Cold … Warm
    * Body scrub

    V. Writing
    * Coffee poured
    * Emails considered
    * Blogs read
    * Blog written, posted

    VI> It Ends
    * Kids, footsteps pounding
    * Arguments ensuing
    * Clock checked
    * Groan emitted
    * Writing comes to a halt ….

    • Susan
      Posted June 11, 2012 at 6:05 am | Permalink

      This outline is so good it could be a poem! 🙂

    • Posted June 11, 2012 at 6:23 am | Permalink

      I love this! Clever and relatable. I imagined it like a record on the player, screech, yet the music will play on again…later.

    • Melanie
      Posted June 11, 2012 at 10:09 am | Permalink

      I love it! Definitely a poem.

    • Posted June 11, 2012 at 11:35 am | Permalink

      I love this! Such a great example that we can practice outlining in so many different ways..love the poetic format 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

    • Posted June 11, 2012 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

      Your voice never fails to shine through – even in your outline. 🙂

    • Posted June 11, 2012 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

      Kevin, I do like the idea of making this morning routine outline into a poem (or a picture book)–it’s sparse yet specific.

    • Posted June 11, 2012 at 8:45 pm | Permalink

      Definitely poetic in and of itself!
      🙂

    • Posted June 11, 2012 at 10:06 pm | Permalink

      I love this! Genius.,

    • Posted June 11, 2012 at 10:36 pm | Permalink

      This does work as a poem. Very creative and fun!

    • Posted June 11, 2012 at 10:46 pm | Permalink

      Love this! 😀

    • Posted June 12, 2012 at 6:14 am | Permalink

      Thanks to everyone for the kind comments. I didn’t think of it as a poem, so now I need to twist my head a bit and see it from another angle.
      😉

  3. Posted June 11, 2012 at 5:57 am | Permalink

    This was very productive for me, I have more of a list, at this point, but I am going somewhere! Thank you Sally and Kate for the inspiration. I put a portion here with the link. Thanks again for a great morning workout!

    As I began the list below (my form of an outline at this point in time for research) it was inspired by my many uncertainties with teaching reading to children who have very little or no experience with this rather large animal. I struggle with this. I now understand a little better where my frustration is coming from. I struggle with this because it doesn’t feel right. So, what do I do now?

    My intent was to outline what I know about one idea in the area of early readers. What I found out is I just don’t know a lot!

    What’s Age got to do with it?
    Why is it that some children learn to read at the age of three and others at the age of seven?
    Boys/girls, what is it about gender?
    Where has shared reading gone? Is it a dying animal or is it standards that have shoved it into a closet?
    How do you foster enjoyment with leveled reading? (Shared reading used to do this, where did that go again, I thought it was just here)?
    How do you measure boredom? Is anyone really bored, is boredom bad? I tell my son when he is bored that it is wonderful because people do their best thinking when they are bored—yeah I get a big sigh out of that one!
    –see the rest here:
    http://teachingyoungwriters.blogspot.com/2012/06/attempted-outlining.html

    • Sally Wilkins
      Posted June 11, 2012 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

      >>I feel a little bit like throwing a tantrum because I want to organize my thoughts, I want to write a piece that will move people including myself and yet I don’t feel ready. <<

      Betsy – this is why the outline is dynamic, not static. So far, it has given you a possible direction and highlighted a lot of places you need to collect more information. If it were my project, at this point I'd put each of these questions at the top of a page, and start running down sources of information about each one.

      I think one of the fallacies to be overcome, in our own writing and as we teach writing, is the idea that we have to know everything we're going to say before we start. For most writers, there's a great deal of discovery along the way.

      There's also an old writer's abbreviation: TK. TK stands for "to come" (I don't know why, it was already old before I learned it). It means "I need to do more research before I can finish this [sentence, paragraph, chapter]." Its purpose is to give yourself permission to keep writing while the ideas are flowing, knowing that you'll come back later to fill in these blanks.

      So – you're right, you're not ready. But that doesn't mean you can't start.

      • Posted June 11, 2012 at 5:06 pm | Permalink

        Thanks for the encouragement, I do feel like I am on a path right now with many directions. I found that out this morning, and it is good to know that it doesn’t mean I can’t do something, I just have a lot to do! I am looking at a blank wall right now that could use some charts with questions, my outline will become wall art! Thanks again.

    • Posted June 11, 2012 at 5:13 pm | Permalink

      If it helps, know that many of my outlines look like this – full of questions and spaces to wonder.

  4. Susan
    Posted June 11, 2012 at 6:10 am | Permalink

    June
    End of a teaching era
    Learning new curriculum
    Reading Atwell, Rief, Calkins
    Rereading Layne, Atkins, Lane
    Writing daily

    July
    Preparing UDL & Technology
    Creating blog & website
    Adding websites to Delicious
    Logging books into Library Thing
    Writing daily

    August
    Preparing Book Talks
    Sorting genres into tubs
    Arranging desks
    Decorating room
    Establishing routines/procedures
    Writing daily

    That’s as far as I can get on the last day of school… 🙂

    • Posted June 11, 2012 at 8:23 am | Permalink

      Susan – I like this list outline. I think this is how I will see my summer once classes are finally done!

    • Posted June 11, 2012 at 11:36 am | Permalink

      I love this way of conceptualizing the learning of this summer! You have inspired me, on this first day of my summer break, to get organized and outline some of the big plans for summer!

    • Kaywin
      Posted June 11, 2012 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

      Thank you for your outline… it helped me get started with my own.

      • Posted June 11, 2012 at 3:36 pm | Permalink

        I’m glad! I wasn’t an outliner with my first couple books but fell into the habit when I started writing thrillers & mysteries, which just seemed to work better that way. Glad Sally’s post was helpful to you!

  5. Posted June 11, 2012 at 7:38 am | Permalink

    My project is still pretty much in the idea stage, but I’m quite sure that in its final form (YA novel), it will alternate between chapters that take place NOW and chapters that flash back to a time in the recent past. Would it be more useful to outline the events chronologically, or how they will appear in the novel?

    • Sally Wilkins
      Posted June 11, 2012 at 4:14 pm | Permalink

      Hmm. Several possibilities occur. You could go ahead and outline it as you visualize it now. (Remember you can always change it later.) Or you could do two parallel outlines, one for the current story and one for the past story. Or you could, as you suggested, do one outline in chronological order, and then chop it up into pieces and rearrange it in the order that the events will be told in the novel. Or just jot each scene down on an index card or post-it note as it occurs to you, and you can arrange and re-arrange as you move closer to the writing stage. (This last idea would work well in Scrivener, I think.)

  6. Ernie Cox
    Posted June 11, 2012 at 7:58 am | Permalink

    I have notes, scenes, and characters jotted down on assorted scrapes of paper – I just forgot to put them in one place! Transferring them to post-it notes for easy rearrangement appeals to me. (picture to follow).

    From a classroom perspective I have often questioned forcing students to stick to the formal outline. Sally, I appreciate the range of options you present and hope more teachers/librarians will consider a buffet of outling choices for students. If the formal outline is a must great programs exist to facilitate/support/scaffold this process. Mind mapping tools such as Kidspiration can create an outline based on a visual web.

    Kate, outlining an existing book is a great idea. When I served on the Sibert book award I used this strategy as part of the evaluation process. It quickly showed me if gaps existed in the overall content of the work. For example, many books about animals are organized chronogically/seasonally – the outline would reveal any missing stages.

    Now off to gathering those bits and pieces into something more coherent.

    • Posted June 11, 2012 at 5:14 pm | Permalink

      Hadn’t thought about outlining books as a way to evaluate/judge, but that makes great sense, too!

    • Posted June 12, 2012 at 12:04 am | Permalink

      I like the idea of using post-it-notes. I might give it a try one of these times. Thanks!

  7. Posted June 11, 2012 at 8:15 am | Permalink

    This assignment has forced me to re-examine the drafts I have written about my great-great-great-grandmother who was involved in one of the last Indian attacks on settlers in Texas. I think it would be a great children’s picture book, but something isn’t clicking. Making the outline of what I already had helped me to find holes as well as eliminate parts that don’t flow.

    I also worked on an outline for an idea I had about teachers laying the foundation for children – especially elementary teachers. Most of the ideas came to me yesterday during my husband’s sermon about building your faith foundation. I was furiously taking notes on my church bulletin, offering cards found in the pewbacks, and whatever scraps of paper I could find in my purse.

    Thanks for “making” me take a look at my ideas in a different way!

  8. Posted June 11, 2012 at 8:35 am | Permalink

    I wonder how outlining might work when writing a poem. Any thoughts?

    • Posted June 11, 2012 at 10:30 am | Permalink

      I’m not sure it’s an outline, but I use lists a great deal before writing a poem. I also love Georgia Heard’s 6-Room poem strategy for organizing/gathering my thoughts and words before drafting. Divide a paper into six (or 8 or 10) boxes. Label the boxes images, sounds. light, emotion, question, repeated word/phrase, similes, actions–whatever works for your topic. Then I brainstorm words for each box. I lead students through this exercise to get them started. Many of them find it useful, too.

      • Patsy Williams
        Posted June 11, 2012 at 10:37 am | Permalink

        Thank you for the info! I’m putting this in my plan for next year’s poetry unit.
        PW

      • Posted June 12, 2012 at 12:05 am | Permalink

        Sounds like a great way to get ideas flowing for poetry! Thanks.

  9. Mary Meihaus
    Posted June 11, 2012 at 8:35 am | Permalink

    Thank you Sally and Kate! I have an idea that is ay least a year old with lots of “jotted notes”. I am a post-it person and want the flexibility to organize and be able to move things around, so I am using post-its on the inside of a file folder to organize these “jottings”. Your suggestions gave me a ‘next place to go’ with this work. I’m off to do my work!

  10. Posted June 11, 2012 at 8:53 am | Permalink

    So glad to hear that what I tell my students is right on. I hate outlines. I tell my students that. I also tell them that it doesn’t mean I don’t have some form of organizational pattern. I show them different methods. Outlines., Mind maps, etc. For sixth graders it seems that doing mind maps with those bubbles works for them. I also show them how I set up my writer’s binder. I have a section for characters, setting, research and ideas. I color code each section so that if something is written in the wrong place then I can use a highlighter or marker to code it and I know I must transfer it to its rightful place. Many say this is too much, but it is the way my brain works. I’ll try to get a picture up later.

    • Posted June 12, 2012 at 12:06 am | Permalink

      Your note is what got me thinking about the Idea Sketch app sitting on our iPads. Mind mapping is a great way for those students that balk at the idea of an outline.

  11. Posted June 11, 2012 at 9:00 am | Permalink

    I have a chapter 1 written and then the rest of my YA novel idea outlined in the notes app on my iPhone! Time to get it into document format and make it a little more manageable! Thanks for the motivation!

    • Melanie
      Posted June 11, 2012 at 10:11 am | Permalink

      I do that too! I was just thinking about how I need to gather all the notes from my phone and iPad into one place. Plus all the scribblings on napkins, post-its, etc!

  12. Posted June 11, 2012 at 9:32 am | Permalink

    This has the potential to model what Fletcher calls “writing long”. -Taking small moments and zooming in on the details.

  13. Posted June 11, 2012 at 9:45 am | Permalink

    Love this! Thank you for sharing such great ideas. I love that the Hunger Games was part of your pre-writing for Capture the Flag = makes me want to read it even more! I don’t have a project on the go but I do love the outlining of the day ‘poems’ that are popping up….I feel one coming on!

  14. Posted June 11, 2012 at 9:47 am | Permalink

    This is hard! I’ve masked my feeble attempt at outlining today with humor and distraction. At least I’ve taken a small step, though, right?
    http://createwriteteach.blogspot.com/

    • Sally Wilkins
      Posted June 11, 2012 at 4:18 pm | Permalink

      Kristin – I love your post-it note storyboard, and your interrupted day brought back a lot of memories!! (Funny thing is, I often think I was more productive back when my time was so limited and so much NOT under my control. Now it’s too easy to fritter the minutes away.)

    • Jaana
      Posted June 11, 2012 at 8:35 pm | Permalink

      Writing on sticky notes…Loved the idea! Maybe that would work for me as well. Easily move the stickies, color code for characters, small stickies for scene changes…ideas are definitely working in my brain. But, I better write the final exam first and then this fun writing!

  15. Posted June 11, 2012 at 10:06 am | Permalink

    Outlines!
    Why haven’t I thought of that?
    that dreaded, hated
    part of comp classes,
    but oh so helpful.
    I am off to outline my day,
    my week,
    my next best,
    amazingly loved,
    wonderfully written,
    quickly published,
    sold out picture book…
    Oh wait that would be my first book,
    sitting on the horizon
    of my yet to make outline!

    Tammy

    First Grade @ Klinger Cafe
    dtklinger@gmail.com

    • Posted June 11, 2012 at 5:16 pm | Permalink

      Love this, Tammy! (and the rebel in me really, really loves that some people are sharing poems instead of outlines in response to today’s assignment!)

  16. Melanie
    Posted June 11, 2012 at 10:13 am | Permalink

    This is where I get intimidated as a writer. What if I don’t know all the places my story will go? I know where it is beginnings…I have ideas for the middle…I know how it will resolve. But all the bits and pieces aren’t there yet. This will be a good exercise to begin thinking about those pieces.

    • Posted June 11, 2012 at 11:32 am | Permalink

      This happens to me often – and remember, there’s no rule that says you HAVE to start with the outline. Often, I’ll start with an idea and write for a while to see where it might go, then stop and do an outline once I figure some things out.

  17. Alexis Pernas
    Posted June 11, 2012 at 10:17 am | Permalink

    I started organizing my ideas for my book today and I feel GREAT! So much has changed so quickly from my original idea as a result of conducting research on my topic. Now I understand more fully the importance of research in story development, even when the work in progress is fiction. Today I accomplished thoughts for the first 3 chapters, honed in on a theme and thought more about the main character. Exceeded my goal of 15-20 mins of writing today!

    • Posted June 11, 2012 at 5:18 pm | Permalink

      Wow! Sounds like today was a great one for you. I’m cheering!

  18. Posted June 11, 2012 at 10:34 am | Permalink

    This is just what I need to do to get unstuck. I’ve been freewriting my novel and finally got to the point I am lost. I am ready to outline what I have…and then work on filling out where the story goes from here. I like the idea of having different sections for characters, setting, research, etc. These ideas have been bouncing around in my head all weekend. Now I need to get them out on paper.

  19. William Polking
    Posted June 11, 2012 at 10:42 am | Permalink

    I second Kate’s suggestion about outlining a favorite book (or essay). We started creating scratch outlines of model essays in my Composition class several years ago, analyzing paragraph by paragraph. And, yes, as some have mentioned above, it feels like “work.” But students report (and their writing bears this out) that doing so makes them understand structure much better.

    • Sally Wilkins
      Posted June 11, 2012 at 4:24 pm | Permalink

      It feels like work – because it is work! Why would it not be?

      I sometimes think about professionals who do things for a living that the rest of us might do for fun – musicians, ballplayers, artists. One of the things that makes the professional different from the hobbyist is that they treat what they do as work. Professional baseball players hit off a tee in spring training, and take batting practice every day, dozens and dozens of swings. Professional musicians do scales and finger exercises every day. What are the “writerly” equivalents? Maybe outlining someone else’s work is one of them.

  20. Posted June 11, 2012 at 11:15 am | Permalink

    This was a great lesson, and I love the flexibility of it!
    I use outlines for my YA and MG writing, and three questions from playwright/screenwriter David Mamet for my PBs. Thank you for doing this, Sally, and many mahalos to Kate, Gae, and Jen for putting this writing community together!

  21. Patsy Williams
    Posted June 11, 2012 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

    In Simple Six writing, the outline takes the form of a plan. Students divide a sheet of paper into thirds. 1st section is the beginning, 2nd section is the middle, and 3rd section is the end. We put a main topic for each section and then add details associated with that topic. This is a beginning 3rd grade- 3 paragraph writing. Later we expand to include an introduction and conclusion for a 5 paragraph writing. This helps students to organize ideas and put them in correct paragraph.

    PW

    • Kaywin
      Posted June 11, 2012 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

      I like using this method with some of my struggling students. I have the students actually divide the paper into nine squares by first dividing the sheet into thirds horizontally and then vertically.
      The top three boxes are the beginning, the middle three are the body and the last three the conclusion.
      For the beginning boxes, they have to show/demonstrate/write a hook, set the scene, and write a thesis.
      For the middle boxes, they have to show/demonstrate/write the three main parts of the piece.
      For the conclusion, they have to wrap it up or summarize, use a quote, and tell the moral or message.

      I like your idea of having them use all three to really focus on the meat (main body) of the piece.

      • Posted June 11, 2012 at 3:37 pm | Permalink

        This is a great idea! (Sometimes I wish I could draw a big online arrow to some of these comments to say, “Hey!! Did you guys see this? Helpful stuff!”)

      • Posted June 11, 2012 at 8:19 pm | Permalink

        I love your idea, too. (I’m just reading all the comments-wonderful words!) I’ve had middle school students fold a ledger size piece of paper & organize on it, any writing! Fold into 18 squares & like you, the first six at the top are the beginnings, with notes & possible questions for further research, and so on down. It helps immensely. I’ve found that if I ask them to do it on the computer, they go too fast, less thinking and more ‘getting it done’.

  22. Kaywin
    Posted June 11, 2012 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

    I outlined my summer plans. No wonder I never feel like I have me time. There are just so many ME’s: the wife me, the grandmother me, the mother me, the daughter me, the sister me, the co-worker me, the learner me, the reader me, the gardener me, the neighbor me…

    • Posted June 11, 2012 at 3:38 pm | Permalink

      I hear you. I actually wrote a poem about this once…how some of those “me” identities roll under the bed and gather dust until you go looking for them. I’m glad you’ve found “writer-you” this week!

  23. Posted June 11, 2012 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

    I am very much a list person and it is very comforting to create a familiar landscape of an outline (though mine tend to be bullet points and arrows rather than Roman numerals) when I cross into uncharted writing territory. I know I have a lengthy one (potential novel?) sitting in my desk that I want to revisit and work on. I think I have time this summer to feel a bit uncomfortable and work on something longer than a blog post.

  24. Posted June 11, 2012 at 2:05 pm | Permalink

    I am working on with a team of three other teachers for a presentation we are giving this Friday on teaching writing across the disciplines and grade levels….

    I) THEORY
    Our shared philosophy for teaching writing
    Framing the dilemma

    II) CHALLENGES
    Each subject area discusses its particular challenge related to teaching writing
    Elementary and secondary school are contrasted
    Where we all agree– what our biggest challenge is

    III) PRACTICES
    Streamlining the teaching of writing
    Some practical tools that we can begin to use in the classroom

  25. Posted June 11, 2012 at 2:08 pm | Permalink

    This post (and the Open Letter to Tyler post, and Gae’s suggestions) is just the clarity I needed to help me figure out where to go from here. I’ve written several chapters: 1-6 were pounded out chronilogically in just a few days, but the successive chapters and scene chunks I’ve written belong elsewhere and have been wriiten over the span of several months. When I got back into it, I read what I’ve written, but then I fell into the trap of wanting to revise, revise, revise, which gets in the way of moving forward with additional chapters. I now see a plethora of options to help me map things out and getting rolling again. I have a feeling post-its will be my new best friend.

  26. Colby Sharp
    Posted June 11, 2012 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

    Hmmm….Well, I feel like I kind of need to make a decision today. Last week was my final week of school, and I was really proud of myself for following Teachers Write and getting my quick writes done, but now I kind of need to decide if I’m really going to throw myself into this thing. I really want to, so I think that I’m going to do it.

    Writing fiction is not something that I really really love to do, but I think trying to write a fictional story over the summer will be what helps me the most in my writing, and in turn, helps me the most as a classroom teacher.

    I’m going to spend some time today working through a couple of ideas I have, and hopefully I’ll be able to pick something that I can work on and grow from this summer.

    • Posted June 11, 2012 at 5:22 pm | Permalink

      Know that I am feeling uncomfortable with you on that “trying something new” front. I was asked to write a piece of short fiction for Scholastic Scope, which thrilled me because all of my fiction is…well…long, and I thought it would be fun. So I sent a list of ideas from which the editor could choose, including one kind of wild sci-fi one with aliens. At the last minute, I thought, “I should delete that one, because I’m not sure I can really pull it off.” But I left it on the list. Care to guess which idea she chose? I think we’ll both be learning & growing in the coming weeks.

      • Colby Sharp
        Posted June 11, 2012 at 10:11 pm | Permalink

        Sci-fi aliens??? This is why I call you the Swiss Army Knife of kidlit:)

  27. Nanette
    Posted June 11, 2012 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

    I made an outline for my novel. Slightly different format. Makes me wonder what’s missing? I also have no idea what to DO with it!
    – – – – – – – –
    Outline for Guardian’s Mage
    Story Goal: Lira grows from a directionless girl into a young woman with the power to save the world.
    Consequence: Eyod’s from the Blue Fen could take over the world, making people their slaves.
    Requirements: (What I need to get from the beginning of the book to the end)
    • Lira learns to use her magic as an offensive weapon ( Meets the Consort)
    • Lira uses her magic to save her friends Jarvin and Barth (Meets the Guardian)
    • Lira is tested at the Temple of the Goddess. Her magical training is accelerated.
    • Lira grows bored and feels like her life is accomplishing nothing. She begs Jarvin to get her out of the temple.
    • Lira is marked by the Guardian and is taken to be trained as a battle mage.
    • Lira participates in her first battle helping to save her adopted kingdom from an Oesterman Invasion.
    • Lira is possessed by the Goddess and learns how to cleanse Olvir, an Oesterman captive, of his addiction to the imperial nectar from the Blue Fen.
    • Lira uses her knew magical knowledge to help clean up an infestation from the Blue Fen within the kingdom’s border.
    • Lira discovers that Barth has been possessed by the evil eyod and must exorcise the eyod to save herself and her friend.
    • The eyod then possesses Olvir, unaware that he is also under the protection of a foreign God.
    • Lira and Olvir meet up with their Gods who assist in defeating the eyod.
    Forewarnings:
    • Consort explains to Barth the magical nature of the riverboat’s accident with an indication that Lira may have been the target.
    • News from the Capital city arrives that Barth’s family has been target with a number of assassination attempts. Lira is unaware.
    • Picture of Barth (and Jarvin?) found after the bandit attack proves that it was not a random act of violence.
    • Despite Lira’s obvious ability, she is not claimed by the Goddess.
    Costs:
    • Lira discovers that men she has been intimate with have /will die because of their relationship with her.
    • Lira’s friends are targets because of their association with her.
    • Lira’s possession by the Goddess binds her to Olvir who must keep her secret.
    • Lira does not fit into the slot allocated to her by society.
    Dividends:
    • Lira is (mostly) accepted when she is claimed/marked by the Guardian
    • Lira finds out who her parents were and discovers she has a family.
    • Lira falls in love

    Prerequisites:
    • Lira must be “saved by” Barth and Jarvin
    • Lira must be marked by the Consort
    • Lira must learn chain lightning from Darmen
    • Lira must be marked by the Guardian
    • Lira must go to the Temple of the Goddess
    • Lira must decide to help the Oesterman prisoner, Olvir
    http://www.how-to-write-a-book-now.com/plot-outline.html

    • Posted June 11, 2012 at 5:23 pm | Permalink

      Remember that your outline is a living, changing document. You have a road map, so maybe you just want to start somewhere on that map now and explore?

  28. Posted June 11, 2012 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

    I was a definite writing “pantser” until I read Story Engineering by Larry Brooks. Before then, I tended to get stuck in the middle of a story, exasperated with everything I had written so far and not sure where to go. Outlining always seemed so formal to me, and quite honestly, it intimidated me! Then I also heard the podcast on outlining over at Writing Excuses (http://www.writingexcuses.com/2012/04/08/writing-excuses-7-15-editing-marys-outline/), and I learned a new way to outline — I had never considered a chapter by chapter outline! I know, right? You’d think this little piece of common sense would have been more obvious to me. But now that I have a handful of outlining tools in my knowhow, it’s not so scary! In the podcast, they also talk about using the “Dora the Explorer” quest style outline and when I shared that with my 4th graders they were super excited to try out this new technique. I love how a little knowledge can go such a long way. 🙂

    • Posted June 11, 2012 at 5:24 pm | Permalink

      Making a note of that book – thanks!

  29. Alice Burtnick
    Posted June 11, 2012 at 4:24 pm | Permalink

    I can’t remember writing anything non-fiction. Although I have a reputation as a very creative problem solver, my feet are too firmly planted in reality to dream up fictional character with interesting plot. A forced attempt would look something like this:
    Intro: Ellen, a woman is her 70’s is in the hospital with a broken leg
    She is restless and cannot sleep because she hears the Von Trapp Family Singers caroling in the hospital hallways. Her family struggles to make arrangements for her long recovery and day care for her husband, Bob, who is at home in the middle stages of Alzheimer’s.
    I. Flashback to Stuttgart Germany where 16 year old Ellen meets US soldier Bob. In short, starving gentile girl is saved from starvation by Jewish American soldier.
    ll. Flash-forward to backyard of Ellen’s son. German cousins, who she hasn’t seen in 30 years, come to granddaughter’s wedding.
    The group shares for the 1st time what happened after the surrender. They were between 7 and 16 years old. In one half of the city the group was saved, fed and treated humanely by the Americans. But the other cousins watch every male adult slaughtered by the Russians.
    lll. This situation, in real life or a novel cannot be resolved.

    And again, I cannot write fiction,this is my real family. I suppose if I keep on exploring and researching this era, I would have to fill in the gaps with speculative conversations. Then I suppose it would become fiction. That would be years of work. Maybe when I retire.

    • Posted June 11, 2012 at 5:11 pm | Permalink

      Wow. This is powerful, Alice – and such a great beginning if you ever did want to write more or turn it into a historical novel. Have you read BETWEEN SHADES OF GRAY by Ruta Septys? (NOT to be confused with 50 Shades of Gray…this is a totally different book!) It’s based on her family’s experience in Russia during World War II & would be great for you to see how an author borrows from real-life family history and turns it into brilliant fiction.

    • Sally Wilkins
      Posted June 11, 2012 at 9:14 pm | Permalink

      Alice, FWIW, I have not written a lot of fiction and my current WIP is an historical fiction, part of why I think I am comfortable in this genre is because the actual historical events give me a framework – things that happened on specific dates give me the structure – but because it was so long ago, there’s almost no record of anything but those events, so I’m free to think about what the characters may have been experiencing/thinking/saying. . . .

  30. NÚRIA
    Posted June 11, 2012 at 5:00 pm | Permalink

    Since I don’t have any project for the summer I want to practice outlining and try it with of one of my favorite book. I think it’ll take me longer than my 30 min before going to sleep. I’ll try to do my best.

  31. Posted June 11, 2012 at 5:18 pm | Permalink

    Here is my attempt at a very rough outline:
    http://theamyrudder.blogspot.com/2012/06/outline-for-wip.html
    Thanks for the advice from Sally and Kate!
    Amy

    • Posted June 11, 2012 at 5:25 pm | Permalink

      Great reminder that outlines can take many different forms – this one actually feels like a whole book outline, very condensed – and one that you might start with before going to a scene-by-scene plot outline. Thanks for sharing!

  32. Posted June 11, 2012 at 6:01 pm | Permalink

    So I don’t have a current writing project – most of my writing of late has been snips and bits as I model and write with my students. So – for my first day in this group I was stymied. I have a pragmatic side and I thought, why not try to “outline” next year’s yearbook. I am the yearbook advisor and I feel that the yearbook should realy weave the story of the year, but is often tied to old “outlines” with bits and pieces from the year tacked onto that outline. So… here goes.

    Our school is turning 50 – happy birthday to HHS
    1. the story of our birth – really a result of asexual reproduction as we splintered off from the exisiting high school. It was a world in turmoil that year which included the assassination of JFK. Who celebrated our birth? Who decried our creation? What gifts were showered on us to start us off in the world?
    2. Growing pains – finding our place… How did we form our identity? Who decided our name? Did our “parents” agree on what to call us? How did we make it through out awkward teenage years? How many of our number did not make it?
    3. Becoming adults – are we productive as we make our way in the world? Do we foster a good “home” environment for our own “offspring”? Are we making our mark on the world?
    4. Middle Age – Where are we now? What are we doing with ourselves to make a difference? How are we building our network? … What will our future bring?

    I’m not sure if this really counts as an outline… but I like the possibilities of thinking this way about the yearbook.

    • Posted June 11, 2012 at 8:33 pm | Permalink

      It counts – and I love the idea – thanks for sharing it!

  33. Posted June 11, 2012 at 7:11 pm | Permalink

    I’d say I am about half way through my first draft of the middle grade I’m writing. I tried outlining what I already did, not sure exactly how to make that work for me. It was good to outline the chapters coming up, but they seem a bit vague and extremely sketchy at this point. Somehow, just writing and seeing the story lead the way feels more natural. I’m worried that the outline will stiffen things up. But maybe if I could somehow get the hang of this non-static outline a few of you have mentioned, it might help. It took longer than I thought, so didn’t do my 15 minutes of writing, but will try tonight!

    • Posted June 11, 2012 at 8:34 pm | Permalink

      You know, everything here is really just about the possibilities – and you shouldn’t feel bad at all about saying, “Nah…don’t think that one’ll work for me,” and moving on or writing something else. Just know it’s here if you decide to return to it.

    • Sally Wilkins
      Posted June 11, 2012 at 9:07 pm | Permalink

      Very often in fiction I find the outline is the step between the first draft and the first rewrite. It then provides a lens through which I can see the gaps and bulges, as well as a framework for building and re-arranging the pieces. I’m a big believer in not interrupting the “flow” of the story when it is flowing. Non-fiction is a different animal, and I almost always have an outline FIRST. (Of course, with non-fiction you often sell the proposal, not the book, so you have to have something to send the potential publisher . . .)

  34. Posted June 11, 2012 at 7:35 pm | Permalink

    I’ve been writing PB manuscripts for several years, but lately I’ve been generating ideas for YA. I’m looking forward to attempting an outline because the left brain in me actually craves the road map. Thanks for such a fantastic post, Sally!

  35. Posted June 11, 2012 at 8:42 pm | Permalink

    This post was insightful to my own writing, but it also got me thinking about the writing that happens in my classroom each and every day. For the first half dozen (or more) years of teaching, I assigned the students an outline to use. I was thinking that this was giving them one option of many different options to organize their writing. Lately, I have been letting them outline as they wish (skipping the formal stuff), and their outlines (informal) have been awesome because they are useful to the student.

    Every year, I focus on one aspect of the writing process that I want to be a better teacher at while teaching the specific step. This year, my focus has been on revising and editing. Not that I’m going to stop educating myself in that area, but my focus this summer will be on prewriting. I feel like I prescribe the students a prewriting formula that they need to use, and that is way too much like math. Yuck!

    This post has me moving in the right direction. Sally and Kate, thank you for getting my week off to a good start!

    • Sally Wilkins
      Posted June 11, 2012 at 9:09 pm | Permalink

      “Lately, I have been letting them outline as they wish (skipping the formal stuff), and their outlines (informal) have been awesome because they are useful to the student.”

      I LOVE this. I found outlining to be so incredibly constraining when I was a student (a million and a half years ago) that when I started writing I was SURE I couldn’t work with one. Obviously I’ve revised that opinion. . . and my definition of “outline.”

  36. Posted June 11, 2012 at 10:05 pm | Permalink

    Sally, thank you for sharing so many approaches to outlining, which is exactly how I have taught students too. We all visualize things so differently, so asking people to do things one way is often a problem. I find that I’ve started a fictional work that I wrote a paragraph about earlier in the year and it’s been noodling around in my brain since then. I do so much pre-thinking before I sit, then I doodle & draw arrows, and so on. It’s messy with whatever I’m doing, fiction
    or poetry or non-fiction. So now I’ve written quite a bit, moving from first to third person, exploring the main character, & starting on another one. I am getting ready to do the chapters if I can, without more action, then return to think some more. It actually was helpful, & I had the time, to read all the comments today. It’s inspiring to see everyone so eager to DO, & to play with your outlining ideas. Thanks for the time!

  37. Maryanne
    Posted June 11, 2012 at 10:41 pm | Permalink

    Ok- I started my outline with ” I HATE Outlining!”. However, I have actually finally written down two very quick and rough outlines for one Picture Book I have had a title and setting for for years, and one for another totally new idea for a another Picture Book. Writing these has made me make my thoughts concrete- the first step to realizing them as the books they may become! I guess I only hate outlining as was force fed in school- my free form way was actually that- freeing and opened my mind to ideas flowing. Thanks!

    • Posted June 11, 2012 at 11:02 pm | Permalink

      You are totally allowed to hate outlines. There. I said it. I hate them, too, sometimes, depending on what kind of book I’m writing. Your book, I think, will let you know what it needs. Some want to be outlined at the beginning; some want to be sketched out in other ways, halfway through. There isn’t one right process. It took me a while to discover this as a writer, which then caused me to rethink my teaching of writing process.

  38. Posted June 11, 2012 at 10:48 pm | Permalink

    I am as bad as my students with wanting to do outlines:) I’ve never loved formal outlining. I like the “idea dump” idea though:) Exactly what I need to do.

  39. Posted June 11, 2012 at 11:21 pm | Permalink

    I truly loved this assignment because I was thinking about ideas this weekend, but they were sort of vague and just rumbling about in my head. I thought that a picture book about a camping trip gone awry would be fun. We have had many crazy camping episodes over the years. This helped me get organized a bit and start making some choices. I still have a long way to go, especially with the characters, but it should be fun. This assignment also got me to use an app that I have on the school iPads that I haven’t used with the students yet. Now I can’t wait to show it to staff and students in the fall. On my website, I posted a picture of the first little bit of story map that I have created. I am looking forward to adding bits and pieces as things come to mind. You may see it at http://writingrx.weebly.com/1/post/2012/06/adventures-in-outlining.html Thanks Kate and Sally!

  40. Posted June 11, 2012 at 11:37 pm | Permalink

    Like many of you, I wasn’t thrilled to see the word outlining this morning. I’m always reminding my students to make a plan; I even model this process for them! But make an outline for my own writing? Not something I do very often. So I tried it with a piece I’ve been struggling with for a few weeks now. I couldn’t figure out how to make it come together. Outlining helped me see that I had about three essays/blog posts in one piece. Once I figured that out, I separated the extraneous information from the main point. I’m still not sure I was completely successful, but it’s definitely an improvement. You can read it here: http://readingtothecore.wordpress.com/2012/06/12/time-to-stop-and-sniff/

  41. MsJenx
    Posted June 11, 2012 at 11:52 pm | Permalink

    Main Character: Monica Jael James

    Brother who is three years younger — Terrance Jeremiah James

    Parents — Cynthia and Lawrence James

    Nicole Raymona Myers — Monica’s best friend and Wil’s on and off again girlfriend.

    Only child of Raymond and Nicollette Myers

    Main Character: Donavan Joseph Brown

    Brother who is three years younger — Nicholas James Brown

    Parents — Lisa and Marcus Brown

    William Michael Johnson Will — D’s best friend

    Oldest son of Michael and Sharon Johnson

    Brothers are Harrison (10) and Robert (8)

    (more character to add)

    Monica and Donavan have been best friends since the womb.
    Donavan has always secretly had a crush on Monica, but he knew that she didn’t like him, which she didn’t.
    Monica starts noticing in the eighth grade that Donavan is attracted, but she is afraid to turn her best friend into her boyfriend.
    Nicole and William, Monica and Donavan’s best friends, have a bet to see who will cave in firs and this best has been going on since sixth grade.
    Near the end of the school year, Will notices that Donavan can’t ignore his feelings for Monica so he urges him to go after her.
    After much convincing from both parties, Monica and D are together.
    SO called friends want to fight Monica over D.
    D’s father finds out about his job transferring him, but decides to tell him after the eighth grade formal.
    D and Monica attend the eighth grade formal together and D finds out with breakfast with his family that they are moving to Atlanta. He keeps it to himself and doesn’t tell Will until the night of the banquet
    After being recognized as athletes of the year, Monica finds out with the rest of the audience of the athletic banquet that D is moving to Atltanta, which is at least four hours away.)
    More betrayed that D didn’t tell him beforehand, she refuses to talk to him or tell him goodbye at the sendoff her parents throw for D’
    During summer vacation, they are not able to take their annual James and Brown family vacation due to Mr. Brown’s new job, which causes Monica’s heartache not to heal.
    She moves on as a freshman in high school and starts talking to a new boy who is a senior. She keeps it as a secret from her family who wouldn’t approve.
    D’ keeps trying to reach out to her through mail and phone, but she refuses to talk to him.
    A James and Brown impromtu vacation during the Christmas holiday forces Monica to face D. They make up after many heated arguments, but D is hurt to hear that she has a new boyfriend.
    Monica breaks up with her new boyfriend after he tried to force her to have sex. She comes clean to her parents who threaten to have him arrested.
    D drops the bomb on Monica that he is staying with his grandparents over the summer, which will bring him back to his hometown. He wants them to pick up where they left off.

    Writing this outline is causing me to wonder if I should show, not just tell, how Monica and D’ life was before they decided to be together.

  42. MsJenx
    Posted June 11, 2012 at 11:57 pm | Permalink

    (Please remove the first post. I need to learn to edit before I post.)

    I will admit that I started doing character outlines because I didn’t like having to scroll through a document to find someone’s name (You will see from the document below that I love coming up with names especially middle.) The thought never occurred to me for me to have an outline for a fictional piece because I was afraid that it would stagnate creativity. I love how she said that the story outline isn’t static but DYNAMIC. Nevertheless, my over analytical side kicks in and says what is the point of having an outline if it will change. I like the idea that it will help organize your thought process, but I will admit that I am still leery. I will attempt to outline a portion of a novel that I shared with the group last week

    The Cover-Up Artists

    Main Character: Monica Jael James

    Brother who is three years younger — Terrance Jeremiah James

    Parents — Cynthia and Lawrence James

    Nicole Raymona Myers — Monica’s best friend and Wil’s on and off again girlfriend.

    Only child of Raymond and Nicollette Myers

    Main Character: Donavan Joseph Brown

    Brother who is three years younger — Nicholas James Brown

    Parents — Lisa and Marcus Brown

    William Michael Johnson Will — D’s best friend

    Oldest son of Michael and Sharon Johnson

    Brothers are Harrison (10) and Robert (8)

    (more character to add)

    Monica and Donavan have been best friends since the womb.

    Donavan has always secretly had a crush on Monica, but he knew that she didn’t like him, which she didn’t.

    Monica starts noticing in the eighth grade that Donavan is attracted, but she is afraid to turn her best friend into her boyfriend.

    Nicole and William, Monica and Donavan’s best friends, have a bet to see who will cave in firs and this best has been going on since sixth grade.

    Near the end of the school year, Will notices that Donavan can’t ignore his feelings for Monica so he urges him to go after her.

    After much convincing from both parties, Monica and D are together.

    SO called friends want to fight Monica over D.

    D’s father finds out about his job transferring him, but decides to tell him after the eighth grade formal.

    D and Monica attend the eighth grade formal together and D finds out with breakfast with his family that they are moving to Atlanta. He keeps it to himself and doesn’t tell Will until the night of the banquet

    After being recognized as athletes of the year, Monica finds out with the rest of the audience of the athletic banquet that D is moving to Atltanta, which is at least four hours away.)

    More betrayed that D didn’t tell him beforehand, she refuses to talk to him or tell him goodbye at the sendoff her parents throw for D.’

    During summer vacation, they are not able to take their annual James and Brown family vacation due to Mr. Brown’s new job, which causes Monica’s heartache not to heal.

    She moves on as a freshman in high school and starts talking to a new boy who is a senior. She keeps it as a secret from her family who wouldn’t approve.

    D’ keeps trying to reach out to her through mail and phone, but she refuses to talk to him.

    A James and Brown impromtu vacation during the Christmas holiday forces Monica to face D. They make up after many heated arguments, but D is hurt to hear that she has a new boyfriend.

    Monica breaks up with her new boyfriend after he tried to force her to have sex. She comes clean to her parents who threaten to have him arrested.

    D drops the bomb on Monica that he is staying with his grandparents over the summer, which will bring him back to his hometown. He wants them to pick up where they left off.

    Writing this outline is causing me to wonder if I should show, not just tell, how Monica and D’ life was before they decided to be together.

  43. Sara Vandenberg
    Posted June 12, 2012 at 12:04 am | Permalink

    I have been hatching an idea for a longer work of fiction for awhile, or it has been dogging me — you may know that unavoidable character or topic that won’t rest until it is written. Instead of using any of the organizing or planning formats that I teach to students, I ended up using a 6 x 5 table/chart, with each cell containing a topic and bulleted details, examples, instances, or events that relate to that topic. The columns each have to do with a different form or embodiment of the overarching topic, and then the rows add a characteristic or attribute of that form — creating a fairly structured set of parallel treatments/ developments on the overarching idea.

    I think your discussion on looking for evenness, balance, and gaps helped me to see I would need equal development of different narrative threads, even if not equal “text time.” I couldn’t paste the table in this comment section, only the words — which turns it into a long list, which isn’t as powerful a plan.

    I like a lot of novels that switch narrators or points of view, and this helps to develop those without having to yet have a chronology or other organizing framework for the unfolding of the bits and pieces of the story that I have so far. It did encourage me to go in more directions, to develop ideas before the inspiration for the writing came, and to highlight areas to research. That was a leap forward.

    Thanks for a good exercise in making a new planning tool, and in stretching a concept to book-size proportions.

  44. Posted June 12, 2012 at 1:08 am | Permalink

    I had just finished a different activity on organizing my work in progress, in mapping the internal and external conflicts. I like the advice today, reflecting that outlines can take different forms. I think I keep 2 mental outlines: one is the chronology of events, and the other is the order that scenes take place. I’m at a crossroads where I think I’m going to use today’s challenge as an opportunity to try out Scrivener software. I’ve had lots of recommendations from fellow writers who say it is helpful for managing novel length docs, including outlining. I’m gearing to move from my WIP’s first draft to a 2nd draft, that requires moving lots of chunks of newly written work, so it may be perfect time to use a more outline savvy approach, to keep organized. Curious to see what I think of it…

  45. Posted June 12, 2012 at 9:37 am | Permalink

    I have been using an app, ” A Novel Idea” on my iPad. It is a powerful app that allows you to not only do an outline, but write small summaries for characters, scenes, and other aspects of a novel.

  46. Posted June 12, 2012 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

    For folks who don’t want to outline first (we will all do it eventually), an interesting guest post on PJ Hoover’s blog by author Elana Johnson who is a definite “pantser” – as in “writing by the seat of one’s pants” – http://pjhoover.blogspot.com/2012/06/blog-tour-giveaway-surrender-by-elana.html. That post also includes giveaway of Elana’s new book.

  47. Posted June 13, 2012 at 12:05 am | Permalink

    The story of a woman coming to terms with how her past and present converge, with how she is not living the dream of fixing everything wrong with her childhood by having children of her own.

    Narrator is seven: present tense: Halloween – on being a child to a dysfunctional parent

    Narrator is 40: Halloween – on being a parent to non-typical children

    Parallels and themes of always having your childhood inside you; layers like nesting dolls

    Weave in and out conversations with husband, Justin

    Transition to narrator’s blog: she writes about parenting a special needs child

    Narrator is 5 years old and loses her dog.

    Narrator is 40 and suffering an anxiety attack.

    Conversation with husband Justin

    Narrator is 40 and cancels Thanksgiving

    Narrator is 40 and seeks counseling

    Transition to narrator’s blog

    Narrator goes to counseling

    Narrator is 11. Field trip. Her mother.

    Narrator is 40. Commuting: on the phone with mother

    Narrator is 40: Thanksgiving

    Narrator goes to a therapist to discuss how she feels her past and present are converging all the time, and how unhappy she is about repeating the past

    {As far as I have gotten}

  48. Posted June 13, 2012 at 7:38 am | Permalink

    OK. I don’t know if I’ll share my outlining on line (is there a pun here?) not because of “fear” of sharing publicly but because this is heady work and will take me longer than a day to do and I’m already behind this week :-). But, I am game to do it because, again, it’s way beyond my comfort zone and that is why I joined Teachers’ Write this summer. If I do get something done this week I will definitely share it. I have to admit that I am starting to realize the enormity (for me) of what I’ve committed to in this summer project. And, I have to admit that I’m excited. Thanks and thanks again!

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