Writer Notebook: Rough outlines​

Over time – no, let’s be real – after many failures, I settled to develop my story ideas in a more organized way.

Rough outlines are part of my process to develop an idea for a novel. The story goes through many WHAT IF before I settled on the most interesting option

To outline or to not outline a novel idea?

Outlining a novel is NOT something absolutely necessary.

When I develop an idea for a novel, I scribbled in a notebook. Even before I answer the big 5 W’s + H, I just have fun writing the inciting incident, what are the consequences for the main character and its world.

Even though I’ve been writing stories since… always I feel sometimes (!), I just started to outline a couple of years back.
Over time – no, let’s be real – after many failures, I settled to develop my story ideas in a more organized way.

I enjoy outlining a little more now, but I still struggle.
I outline nevertheless because it really helps me explore the possibilities within the story idea.

Now, about the outlining method.


The many outlining methods

4 steps

11 steps

15 steps

22 steps

… to outline, to write a novel, to become a master storyteller.

They are a lot of outlining methods out there. (The links to the ones that inspire me the most are down below!)

The most popular method to develop an idea for a novel is by using the famous 3 acts structure one.
It’s a very popular method.
So much so, we can read it in many, many YA novels published in the past decade, if not more.
Up to the point where a good novel needs a darn good writer to make me forget about the plain boring structure.

I struggled with the aftermaths of using the 3 acts structure outline to develop a novel idea.
I would lose interest after writing 30K words or so because, yeah, I know what is coming up next! It feels like I simply needed to fill the gaps between the outline points.
Like I’m filling out a form.

Being a bored writer is not good. Not good for the prose.
Not good for nothing really.

If your own story bores you, why bother writing it?
Readers will most certainly be bored too.
Starting by literary agents or publishers, if, like me, you live in a world bubble too small for literary agents to survive in.

I decided to outline nevertheless. Getting another set of rejections for a book I’ve been working on for years helped a bunch too!

A few outlines for the chosen Fantasy MG story idea

In his book, The Anatomy of a Story, John Truby says that the main character alone doesn’t make the story.
The world of the main character, the friends, the family, the new people the main character will meet, that’s what makes a story.

It sounds like stating a major ‘duh’ fact, but a major ‘duh’ fact I tend to forget. My main focus is too often oriented towards the hero.

I choose to work on the Fantasy MG story idea. When I say fantasy, I’m not sure what kind which one the thousands of fantasy sub-genres there is nowadays !!!

I know which ones I will NOT write into, because, oh… book market… trying to get traditionally published… so on, so forth.
I’m staying away from:

  • super-heroes (or peculiars, or gifted, or whatever)
  • dark fantasy
  • fables
  • fairy tales

After writing down my rough story ideas, I went into « what if » mode?

For so many things can happen in a novel!

The first fews outlines I write are pretty rough. I use an extended version of the Hero’s Journey I talked about before.
Here’s an example of what I wrote down:
– What if the main character travels through time to find something or someone it lost?
– What if the main character is mistaken for someone else and has to get back home somehow?
– What if the main character starts to look for a disappeared something or someone? A someone. Let’s say someone disappears.

I chose the last « what if ». Already, there’s some character agency implied. Some character qualities to, like altruism, curiosity. Also some flaws like stubbornness, disobedience.

Now, time to go back to brainstorming (not kidding) and then, I will undergo the working outline, the one I will use to start with start drafting.

The one I will talk about in the next post of the Writer Notebook series.

Stay tuned and thanks sooo much for reading !


On the Internet-verse:


Helping Authors becomes Authors

Samantha Allaker 

Vivien Reis


On paper: 

The Anatomy of Story, by John Trudy

Save the Cat!, by Blake Snyder

On Writing, by Stephen King

Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamott

Comment je suis devenu cannibale, de François Gravel

About outlining:

Well-Storied on outline

Outline a novel part 1 by Samantha Allaker

Savannah Gilbo has a bunch of blog post on outlining

Auteur : Marie Alice

Writing away and reading books. Joy! Écrire à tout vent et lire des romans. Joie!

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