outline

Before we begin, practice healthy creative habits: Clear your space of clutter, set aside some time to focus and spend 2-3 minutes doing your Daily Free Writing before you begin. See Lesson 2 for more about DFW.

From yesterday’s writing, you should have some sense of whether you’re doing a primarily character, universe, idea, or event driven story. Now we’re going to update our outline.

NOTE: Before we begin talking about Scrivener, just know you can use index cards or post-its instead. However, I kind of love being able to create digital index cards like this and move things around – and later you can keep track of word count for each chapter and so on. But, while I teach Scrivener, it’s not required.

There are two parts of every card in Scrivener… the part you can see in outline view (Title and Synopsis) which is a small amount of information. Eventually, it won’t hold all your notes about that chapter.

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I like to keep the synopsis simple, just enough information so I can remember what is happening with that chapter. If you click inside one of the cards you can write a much as you want. (Note: I am using a Mac and I’m told that Scrivener on a PC looks different.)

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In this view we can edit the inside of the card, plus on the right is the Title and Synopsis view. There’s also labels under “General” on the bottom of the right hand column. In the “Status” field you can use the preset statuses or add your own. I might use: “To-Do” and create one called, “First Pass” to keep track of which cards I’ve filled out.

In each card, take the writing you did the other day and paste the relevant notes, plus add a line at the bottom:

MAIN STORY LINE: (Example note, yours will be different:) Samantha visits her parents over Christmas and realizes that she’s not the same person anymore. Big exploration of feelings, flashback to childhood and the underpinning to the big changes about to come in the next chapter.

The main story line note is your reminder about 1. the type of story you’re doing and 2. what that chapter does to push that narrative forward. Other things happen in that chapter, but this breaks out that main story line chapter by chapter so you’re aware of how you’re handling that narrative, even if the story line is blended into other events.

(We will be doing this with other areas too: secondary story, themes, research points, etc).

The outline is a tool, to guide your writing, it is not the writing. Also it’s just for you, so it’s not important that this be polished for general consumption. It is simply notes to yourself, even fragments of writing, a log line about the character or event or universe, and tracking (through the status field) to make sure you’ve touched everything. We’re braiding together multiple threads of story, interesting research, micro story lines and so on, to create a roadmap for our final book.

When you’ve finished that card, change the status to “First Pass” or if you need to skip it, change it to “To Do”. (Cool, right? You can sort your outline later by status as you’re writing to let you jump into the parts that haven’t been done yet.)

In Outline view it should look something like this:

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And if I click on the Status column I can sort by what I have left to edit:

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Today’s assignment: Work on updating your outline as described above.

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1Daily Free Writing
2Update your outline with yesterday's notes!