Outlining Fiction for Beginners | Nia Hogan | Skillshare

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Outlining Fiction for Beginners

teacher avatar Nia Hogan, Storyteller

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.



    • 2.

      What is an Outline


    • 3.

      The Purpose of Outlining


    • 4.

      Common Issues With Outlining


    • 5.

      Types of Outlines


    • 6.

      Novel Outlining Template


    • 7.



    • 8.

      Outlining Tips and Best Practices


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About This Class

Are you looking to gain a betterĀ understanding of how to outline your story ideas? Then Outlining Fiction for Beginners is right for you. This course covers the basics or outlining, common issues writers come across, and tips and best practices to conquering the outlining process.

Meet Your Teacher

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Nia Hogan



I'm a multi-published author, educator, and your facilitator.

I'm a New Jersey native, but Florida has been my home for over 20 years. I earned my MFA in Creative Writing for Entertainment from Full Sail University and am also a Master of Education. I have self-published 4 novels and 1 craft book and produce resources for writers.

Writing has always been my passion but I've been in the business for almost 10 years. Between ghostwriting novels, to creating copy for small businesses, I've helped many writers to develop their craft over the years.

When I'm not writing, I'm looking for new content to create or curled up with a good book.

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Level: Beginner

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1. Introduction: Hello there and welcome to Outlining Fiction for Beginners. My name is Nia Hogan and I'm a multi published author and educator. During my six-year freelance writing career, I got my start by helping aspiring authors outline there novel ideas before moving onto goes Writing Fiction. When I'm not in the classroom teaching ELA, I'm Writing passion projects of my own. Well, writing a book should be PFK-1. It can also be challenging whether you're writing fiction or nonfiction. It takes work to ensure that you're finished Book is a solid and complete work. While this course focuses on Fiction, some of the strategies and ideas presented in this course could help you with understanding how to approach nonfiction as well. Most writers are full of great story ideas. The piece they often struggle with is where to start. Besides effectively communicating your thoughts, you are also tasked with bringing a story full circle. Outlining is not a big secret being kept by best-selling authors. If you've ever had to plan an essay in school, you've had firsthand experience outlining a written work. Writers know that outlining their story is a tried and true method of organizing your thoughts before you get started. That can be extremely helpful as you begin the process of writing your book. The problem you may have is that you struggled to outline in a way that you find useful to you. But in this course we'll review some methods that you might find works well with your writing style. This course is for Fiction writers who are looking to gain a better understanding of how to outline their story ideas. This course is not for season writers who have a handle on Outlining methods. In this course, we will discuss what an Outline is. Clarify the Purpose of Outlining, cover common Issues With Outlining. Go over tips and best practices, uncover methods that can help you with outlining. And I'll provide you with my personal Outlining resource 2. What is an Outline: Now onto our first lecture, what is an Outline? And outline is a structured plan that sequences the information you'd like to include in your book. It includes the main events or points you want to make in your writing. Outlines are your book skeleton and roadmap. It's the foundational plan for your book to follow. Just like many of us rely on our GPS to get us places, we can use an Outline as a guide to get us from page one to the end of our Story. Similarly, coaches put together game plans to show players where to go. And builders use blueprints for new construction. And outline is just that. An overview of what's to come? This document can include the important information such as the structure of the story, the plot, characters, scenes, and whatever other details that will provide a map for you to follow as you begin writing. For some writers Outlines or simple one-page documents that create a brief overview of the direction the story is going in. It probably only includes major characters, maybe the settings, and more than likely the beginning, middle, and end, the problem and the solution. Others may choose to use a diagram or graphic organizer to show how major ideas are plot points link. This visual provides more guidance and ensures that all ideas connect. Then some writers like to have all the ideas I just mentioned in more, such as specific sentences and dialogue ideas. No matter how simple or complex, all the examples mentioned are considered Outlines. In this section, we touched on what an Outline is and some examples of things Outlines might include. In this next section, we'll discuss why many writers choose to Outline 3. The Purpose of Outlining: If this is your first time writing a novel, if you're unsure if you need an Outline or if you're struggling with free writing a story. This lecture will help you to understand the Purpose of Outlining. Some reasons writers use Outlines is to help them organize their writing before they begin. It helps them see the bigger picture of their writing and ensures that when they begin, they don't miss a thing. Good Outlines cover what the characters do to drive the plot through major scenes. Outlines are intended to be a clear guide of what to write. Once you have your completed outline in front of you, you will know exactly what your writing should achieve by the time you're finished. In this section, we went over the Purpose of Outlining. Hopefully you have a better understanding of why many writers choose to use Outlines for their Book ideas. In the next section, we will cover some common Issues authors face when they don't right from an Outline 4. Common Issues With Outlining: Now let's take a moment to address common Issues With Outlining. There are four common issues that writers face with their writing when they choose not to outline. These are pacing, character development, managing multiple storylines and fulfilling their author contract. Pacing is the rate that your story is moving at for your readers. If you're an avid reader like myself, then you know exactly what I mean when I say that a chapter or a Book move too slowly. I often found myself saying things like I could've done without that section or I had to stop reading it. It was just moving too slowly. The pacing wasn't enough to remain invested in the character's journey. In some cases, it even feel, felt rushed. This is something that I noticed a lot with juvenile fiction, but it definitely happens in other genres. The author, in my opinion, often rushes through scenes that have beautiful potential for development. By creating an Outline, you're able to see how the plot points fall and decide if the sequence of events is the best way to tell the story. And if everything moves fluidly, by catching this in the outlining process, you can quickly remedy a slow moving plot or add relevant filler for a fast moving plot to help slow the pacing enough to satisfy the reader. Character development is how the characters change and their movement throughout the story. Good characters should change. That change doesn't always have to be positive either. For example, if a character is struggling with addiction and are on a journey to recovery, they can change on either side of the spectrum. They can move deeper into their addiction or closer to rehabilitation. By Planning for this development, you can outline what areas of the story will reveal breadcrumbs of change. Subtle changes can be planned for as well. And outline will allow you to recognize if your character is being to static or changing too quickly or unrealistically. In the same way, your story should be character-driven. Think of the plot as the car and your characters as the drivers. While events may be the catalyst for change, It's the characters choice of how they'll react that makes the scene. By Planning for this, you can ask yourself, will they or won't they, to explore their choices and the effects of their decisions. If you're unclear of how a character should move, Outlines don't lock you into a contract either. If something more exciting comes to mind as you write, it's okay to deviate from the plan. But it does help you plan for those pivotal moments that develop your characters into well-rounded beings. If you already know the answers to what they're going to do and when they're going to make decisions throughout the book. Most books have more than one storyline, so managing them all can be complicated without a plan. The main storyline is the a story. And any additional storylines that come after are B, C, D, etcetera. The more storylines you have, the harder it becomes to weave them together. So outlining helps you to control the narrative and decide how each storyline will connect. For example, maybe your main story is your hero's quest. But on this quest, the heroes on the fence about falling in love with someone they meet along the way. And beneath that, they're battling a conflict with self that standing in the way of them completing their quest. Story a, their quest is the main story that opens up the book and presents the main problem. We follow story a to the end. Story be the love story may not start until the fifth chapter when they meet their love interests along their quest. It's possible that storyline B takes us up to the very end where the hero decides that they do indeed love this character and want to spend forever with them. Story see their internal conflict may start as the character answers the call their quest, and this story follows them right up until the climax of the book. This storyline may reveal a lot of the character changes the hero is undergoing and also provides a vibrant backstory and flashbacks. Here you have three storylines and one Book. You can't tell them consecutively. They must run concurrently. In order to do that fluidly, you have to know what point will they or won't they explore their love interests and will they, or won't they crumble from the pressure of their past? By creating an Outline, you can visualize how your character is developing and therefore how the story is developing. Because without characters, you have no story. And finally, a Writing contract is nothing more than whatever doors you open in the story. You crack or close them before the end. If you present a problem, you must provide a solution. That solution may be incomplete. For example, if you're writing a sequel where the narrator isn't all-knowing, there may be some things left for the reader to infer. Regardless, it's important to show your reader that you know you presented something and understand that The Art of storytelling is to guide your characters to the end. Whether it's happy favoring the protagonist or not. The thing you have to ask yourself as you outline is, am I giving my readers enough to feel satisfied by the last page? Many readers leave things to the imagination, but they will allude to what they had in mind so that readers feel a sense of fulfillment when they're done. By doing this, you are fulfilling your writer contract. It's easy to start a story and present information and without an Outline, forget to circle back to these ideas. These four common issues can be deal breakers for the completion or success of your writing piece. Proper pacing, well-developed characters and story lines, and a fulfilling ending are things that readers need in order to invest in your book from cover to cover. Not Planning for these things will make your job more challenging on the backend, if you've already started writing your next book, I challenge to you to ask yourself if pacing, development or the ending or the parts you're struggling with. If so, it's never too late to outline your existing story to figure out how to overcome those major obstacles in your writing process. In this section, we covered the four biggest challenges facing writers when they choose not to outline. In the upcoming lecture, we'll dive into the different types of Outlines you can try for yourself 5. Types of Outlines: Types of Outlines. A simple web search will uncover several different resources, both paid and free, that you can use as a resource to help you organize your thoughts. While the information covered will likely be similar, just organized in a different way, it will be your task to discover how your writer brain works best. For me, I work best with outlining my stories chapter by chapter. I write a summary of what characters will be present, where they will be, and what they will face and do. And sometimes I jot down specific details such as dialogue, feelings, or thoughts so that I don't forget what that character is experiencing in that moment or the why behind it. Many of my clients like that, I use this method of Outlining for them because it lets them know exactly what they will write with this method. The four struggled points we covered in the previous lecture are already figured out for them. All they have to do is sit down and write. A simple method of Outlining is called the synopsis method. This is a one to two-page long document that creates a rough idea of what the book will be about. This will usually cover the major story beats, plot points, climax twists, and the resolution. Whenever I have a new story idea, I always start with a synopsis method. By doing this, I can ideas dumped the big picture and see if I have a complete story ideas on my hands. Many writers can get started with just this. For a new writers, this may be challenging, but for writers who are good at filling in the blanks, this is a quick and easy way to outline without getting overwhelmed with the small details until you cross that bridge. Chapter summaries, as I mentioned earlier, is another method of Outlining. Once I'm done with my synopsis Outline and normally move into chapter summaries. While you certainly don't need both. I liked this more detailed outlining process because it allows me to outline the scenes within the chapter. This method helps writers stay on track to get their characters where they need to go without missing a story beat. These Outlines for novels can become very long depending on what you're mapping out. If you're looking to have your Outline critiqued before writing. This is the most helpful method for someone to provide feedback with. This also works well if you're writing with the team and want everyone to be on the same page about the direction of the story. The storyboarding method might remind you of scriptwriting. It's simply a graphic organizer that sequences the events of the story. In this method, it's going to show how the scenes flow from start to finish. And it acts as a map for your novel, which helps you stay on course. Next up is the Snowflake Method. I have never used this method before, but I have a client who wanted me to look over this Outline using this method, and that's how I was first introduced to the process. This method is perfect for people who don't want a super formal outline, but also aren't ready to just free write. With this method, you create a one-sentence summary of it, aka your premise. Then you turn that one sentence into a paragraph by explaining that main story idea. You can also identify your main characters. And each paragraph that follows can explore the structure of the beginning, middle, and end of your story. The idea is that each paragraph stems from the premise. Each paragraph builds off of the one that came before until you can no longer develop that idea. When developing characters with the Snowflake Method, each character can be given their own paragraph to explore their core characteristics, their role in the story, and even general descriptions about them. These characters are extensions of your snowflake because as we discussed before, characters drive your story. You can go over their backstories and perspectives, their physical attributes, and how to solve conflict if it helps you to develop new paragraphs. Here I created an example Snowflake Method Outline. And the idea here is that the core story is developed and expanded upon. Whether you choose to create a web of paragraphs or a full-page synopsis is user choice. This list of scenes help you build more events until you have a full story planned in front of you. Lastly is the bookend method. If you like watching your storyline evolve and have a great understanding of character development and story structure. Then this is a method you can use. This is where you only plot the beginning, the end, and the main characters, and let the rest of the story evolved during the writing process. I haven't had much success with this method. But if you are a strong writer or just eager to get started, way of Outlining can be exciting because even you don't know what your characters are going to say or do until they actually do it. If these methods aren't something that interests you. At the end of this course, I will give you more information about a resource that I created. It comes free with this course that you can use to outline your next Fiction writing piece. What other strategies do you use to tackle Outlining? Feel free to share that and then discussion section with your peers. My hope is that these tips and best practices will help you get started on your next outline. In this section, we reviewed the methods for Outlining for Fiction. In the next section we will cover some tips and best practices to help you on your Outlining journey 6. Novel Outlining Template: Novel, Outlining Template Outlines or not every writers first step, but from my personal experience and the expertise of writing coaches and other successful authors, working without an Outline can make the writing process longer and more challenging. If things don't make sense or add up. Outlines can usually help you fix these foundational issues before you even begin writing. As a freelance writer, I often receive messages from potential clients expressing that they're Outlines were a mess or might be confusing. Oftentimes they're warnings, war warranted. Outlines were a mix of many different methods and essentially felt like a brain dump to an outsider. Looking in this re-occurring challenge inspired me to not only write this course, but to create a resource that aspiring authors could use to help them organize their thoughts in a way that I could help them determine if they're outline was solid enough to move forward in the writing process. This resource again comes free with this course. Go ahead and download this PDF from the project section of this course. And you can write directly on it or print it if you'd like. This resource covers the main pillars for effective Outlining. You can use this to jumpstart your chapter by chapter Outlines as well. 7. Conclusion: We've come to the end of this course and I truly hope you've enjoyed Outlining Fiction for Beginners. If you want to write faster and produce higher-quality work, outlining can support you in that. My hope is that you've gained insight on why Outlining could be a good choice for your next writing piece, as well as how to approach this initial stage in the writing process. If you have any final advice or questions for the good of the order, please drop it in the discussion section of this lecture and I'll respond to you. Again. My name is Nia Hogan and it has been a pleasure to help you get a handle on outlining your next writing piece. I hope you found this class helpful as well as the resources that I provided. If you enjoyed this course, please leave a positive review to allow others to know just how much it helped you. If you have any private questions, feel free to e-mail me at novel writing for beginners@gmail.com 8. Outlining Tips and Best Practices: If you're feeling overwhelmed by your options or even the task of Outlining. In this section, we'll cover some of the tips and best practices more seasoned writers use to make the process simple and more enjoyable. First up is to brain dump or free, right? Sometimes a story idea we'll take root and 1,000 ideas are spilling out of you at once. Instead of trying to neatly outline at all, open up a blank document or grab your notebook and just start writing down what comes to mind as it comes to mind. Sometimes these ideas dumps are a great starting place for a more formal Outline. This might be a good time to ask the five W and H questions. Who, what, when, where, why, and how to help you answer questions readers might have. Try identifying the most important ideas. What big things do you want to happen to your characters? While adventure stories tend to have more conflict, you still want to story that's believable even if it's not realistic Fiction. Unlucky character can't be unlucky all the time, constantly being thrown into sticky situations. As you record those, if your story has too many points of conflict or too many major characters, for example, you can always repurpose those story lines and plot points for another book. It's a good idea to determine what themes you want to uncover. The theme is the main message of your story. Your book can have multiple themes, but it's a good idea to know what you want your reader to take away. So you can Best paint that with your words and what your characters do to show the reader what they can learn from them. If you're struggling with wrapping your mind around getting started, find a way to illustrate how your ideas connect. If you're a visual learner, a web or a diagram can help you create a storyboard to understand how all of the ideas and details connect. If you prefer to sequence events by just writing sentences, you can cut and print your ideas into strips and order them in a logical way. If your auditory record yourself reading your outline and listen to it back to see if you like it. Have a clear beginning, middle, and end in mind. This helps you with pacing. When you go back in to add details to your outline, make sure that each of your storylines are adequately covered. The a story is the main story involving your main character. While the storylines typically also involve your main character, it might focus on supporting characters as well. If you have additional story lines, you need to ensure that those are well paced and complete as you're a story. Make sure your main character is worth investing in. The best characters are ones that readers invest in. They want to know what they do next, how their journey unfolds and ultimately what happens to them. These characters undergo change. This evolution can be internal, external or both. But your reader will be more invested in their journey if you show them that your character changes over time, just like everyone else, give as much attention to your beginning as you're ending. The openings sets the scene for the reader. It's their first impression of your writing and your main characters. For some readers, this is where they reach the crossroad of Willie, or won't I continue reading? Make those first few lines and pages count. In the same way, providing your readers with an ending that will stick with them is essential. A satisfying ending isn't always a happy or the most sensible ending, but it's the last thing your reader experiences. So it should be memorable. Think about your favorite books. Reread the last chapter of them. What made them so powerful? Seek help from a writing coach or other Writing Expert to look over your Outline. They can offer advice, pose questions, make suggestions, or helping to fix her finish your outline. Just because it's your story idea, does it mean you're in this on your own? There are plenty of writers out here including myself. They love reading and critiquing Outlines to help fellow authors make their story ideas stronger. Of course, our professional opinions are just that. Opinions. You may decide at the end that you like your Outline the way it is. It doesn't hurt to seek counsel if you're struggling, unsure were just want someone to share your thoughts or ideas with. Lastly, revise your Outline. Revisions don't have to be major changes, but most Outlines are not perfect the first time around. Be open to adding, adjusting and removing things like characters, scenes, and major plot points that don't serve you. In this section, you've learned about eight tips and best practices for Outlines. Hopefully this advice will assist you as you embark on your next outline. In the next section, I will introduce the resource I created for beginner writers to help them outline there next novel