Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Outlining for Fun and Profit! (Okay, not for profit. But for fun!)

So, some of you know that I write a fun little fanfic called Frozen Spring. I have a dirty secret, however. (No, writing fanfiction ISN'T my dirty secret. Wow, y'all are total book snobs, aren't you?) I don't outline. Ever.

*collective audience gasp*

I know, I know. You're probably thinking, "But Meadow! If you don't outline, how do you know what's going to happen?" Well... *whispering* I don't. I have a general idea. I know how I want the story to end. But I don't have a map of how it's going to happen. I'm letting the characters tell me how they want to get there.

For a story like FS, it's not such a big deal. I'm not writing a great, epic tale of love across centuries or anything. It's a story that takes place in a house over the span of about two weeks. I have more than one story in my mind, however. Stories that are larger, broader, and have more characters. These stories scare me. Because - the horror! - I may have to outline them!

Enter my new hero, Jamie Harrington. She not only has an agent (fangirl squee!) and a completed manuscript out on submission, but she has the best outlining tool ever created. Seriously. I want to sing it a song. It would sound something like "Tribute" by Tenacious D. This tool has a name, and it's name is STORYSAURUS!

Here's the concept: You need to outline. Outlining is boring. BUT, if you outline all of your major plot points via the spines on a cartoon stegosaurus, outlining becomes FUN!

(Don't worry, I asked for her permission before stealing her awesome art.)

Now, maybe dinosaurs aren't your thing. So take this concept and apply it to ANYTHING that works for you. (I'm thinking of making a Story-Breathing-Dragon for a fantasy novel.) The bottom line is that outlines don't HAVE to be scary. They also aren't set in stone. While discussing StorySaurus with Jamie I expressed my main problem with outlining: I try too hard to stick to it. She very kindly set me straight. Outlines are there to help you, not hinder. Maybe I won't stick to my outline. Maybe I'll rip off a few spines and reorder others. Maybe I'll have to add wings or something. But at least I'll know where I want to end up and realize when I can't get there anymore.

Which fits in with my number one rule of life: Making plans is a great way to keep track of how often things change. *winks*

Read Jamie's original StorySaurus post here:

Do you outline? Are you an "organic writer" (my friend Heather told me that's what us non-outliners are called) like me? Will you use StorySaurus? Let me know!


  1. Outlines give me hives... even Storysaurus outlines. It's one of the great tragedies of my life.


  2. Petty's a wimp. If you put wings on Storysaurus I will pass out and die from the awesomeness :)

  3. Jamie's StorySaurus *is* totally the bomb! :)

    Do I outline? Yes and no. Because the story that's sitting in my drawer - I mean, writing - has a lot of flashback, I created more of a timeline than an outline. Has is helped me? Yes. Have I stuck to it? Not at all. Like you, Meadow, I believe in letting the characters dictate where the story goes. The first time my MC took over, I totally FREAKED: "But that's not part of my outline!!!" Turns out, he knew what he was doing a lot better than I did. ;)


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