Update: My Dad’s Sending Me Memes Now.

This one seemed relevant:

OOOOO Boy! October is Outlining Month!

Hey y’all!

Ohhhhh Boy am I excited for October! If you’re like me, you like to spend way too much time thinking about your story and your world before you even know what your plot is. The good news is that that’s called outlining and it’s incredibly useful. So take the time this month to plan out your story.

Why now? Well it’s not just that great alliteration of Outlining October. November (the month after October for you gregorian calendar fans) will be WooWriMo, or Wooster Writing Month. This is a “lite” version of NaNoWriMo (or National Novel Writing Month) because we recognize that November is not a good time for y’all to be stressing about a 50,000 word goal. WooWriMo will be just the goal to write everyday, whether that be on one project or multiple or rewrite/editing a document. Remember that WooWriMo is Wooster Writing Month. It’s all about the process, no destination, but having a clear plan can be very useful, so Outlining October.

Our two first Saturdays of October fall during Fall break which is both useful and not at all helpful from a club perspective, but our prompts will be centered around the idea of working on something big for the next to months to facilitate participants in WooWriMo.

Goals/Tips for Outlining October:

  • Plan out main characters to the absurd extent. Don’t just use your character sheet as a cheat sheet for their appearance and name. Make your character sheet a chance to deeply explore and get to know what your character is like and what they’re likely to do even if you don’t end up using every detail in your story. Check out Develop Your OC on Tumblr or this post from our Tumblr for absurd questions to really get into that nitty gritty.
  • Check out concept art that inspires not just appearance, but the attitude you want in your character. Remember photos can be great, but drawings can also be great for character art. There’s a lot of inspirational character art on our Tumblr, but don’t be afraid to just google some physical descriptions.
  • Do some fanfiction. Just because you don’t have your main plot doesn’t mean you can’t write stories about your characters. You probably have some ideas for scenes… write them. Try writing them outside of what they’d do in the actual story, like what if they didn’t have to race to the top of that plot mountain, what would they be doing? Write it, learn some more about your characters and get comfortable writing for them.
  • Play connect the dots. If you know what scenes you absolutely need in your story but don’t know what’s in between, then write out those scenes on cards. Figure out what you need to get those scenes to happen and fill in the rest. Don’t be scared if you can’t connect everything, so scenes might not fit, but this is your story, so you can make them fit. Be creative.
  • If your story includes a long journey, then plot out a map of their route or what you think it will be. Visualizing the distance might inspire you. Check out this map generator for inspiration.
  • Prepare for senses and emotions. Find and emotions chart, like this one,  to use as a visual aid when you’re writing descriptions. Try to get specific, like this one, and diversify your list to get a wide range of expressions. Check out this book, which you can by in ebook form for helpful vocab and descriptions of what emotions look/feel like.
  • Read some good books in your genre (but not your topic) to get an into the right headspace.
  • Remember that your plans can change while you’re writing. Don’t think of your outline as a roadmap, but as a way to prepare details and facts about aspects of your world. Take your time!

(Some) Outlining Methods Pros and Cons

Outlines are not everybody’s thing. I know that, but they can be incredibly useful. I’ve said before that I wasn’t an outlining kind of writer when I first started, mostly because I didn’t know it was an option, but I’ve come around a bit and I’ve been testing out how to effectively outline this past year or so.


There are a couple of reasons I’ve done this, first being that I was getting stuck. I would write myself into a situation that had to be a certain way because of character traits and decisions made earlier in the story and because of said situation I was forced to go in a certain direction that I didn’t want to go in because it was either that or do a total rewrite. In short, I was stuck in a loop of starting over and over and over until I lost interest. Outlining doesn’t necessarily fix that problem entirely, but it helps test the waters for things that may be problems and helps me direct my characters away from directions I don’t want to go. I find that it also helps me write faster since I’m not spending as much time wondering what I should do next, and it helps me get hyped about my story. It’s not a sure-fire thing, but it’s certainly preventative.


I think there’s a misconception, which a lot of people have about the outline, that it’s a set in stone contract or a walkthrough of your story. The truth is that you may not even use the outline at all, you may simply make it and never touch it again because it may have already fulfilled its purpose to you. The point of an outline is to get you to think about your story before you actually write it. Brian A. Klems puts it this way in his article “Choosing the Best Outline Method for You” in Writer’s Digest:


“Think of it, perhaps, as a recipe. You can follow a recipe exactly for, say, a cheesecake, or you can add a bit of chocolate to the batter, and poof—chocolate cheesecake! Or, you can add a graham cracker crust and some cherries to the top, and you’ve got a different version of the same classic. Recipes guide us—but the creativity still belongs to the head chef.”


So, if you’re convinced, and you want to start using outlines, you may be wondering “What the fuck do I do now?” And I might respond “That is a very good question, I was hoping you could tell me.” Just as there is no one way to use an outline, there is no one way to make an outline. Here are a few ways people suggest you go about it, and some pros and cons to each strategy:


  1. The Expanding Outline (aka The Snowflake Method):


The idea with this one is that you start with your basic premise


Ex. Jack and Jill went up the hill to fetch a pail of water


Then you keep expanding and adding more details to it


Ex. Jack the seventh son of a seventh son with his twin sister Jill must hike up the mount Hecuba to retrieve the water of youth to heal their sick mother. à Jack the seventh son of a seventh son with his twin sister Jill must hike up the mount Hecuba to retrieve the water of youth to heal their sick mother, because they are the only one’s powerful enough to defeat wicked Zolo. Zolo almost kills them several times (with his henchmen, his giant hawk, and with his turtle Steve), but Jack and Jill persevere and face Zolo for one final battle when Jack falls from the mountain, leaving Jill to follow him down quickly or perish. ETC.


More information here.



  • Helps identify the places that need expanding
  • Can be used on the micro and macro level.


  • Long
  • Not simple


  1. Summary:


This one’s easy. Just start writing the story but summarize the conversations and scenes.



  • Straight forward
  • Easy to follow after it’s done


  • Not good for much brainstorming
  • May have to do it several times


  1. Skeletal Outline:


This is the one most people think of when they think of outlines. It’s like when you were a kid in elementary school and they made you do those outlines for essays that have the class hated more than writing the actual essay. You basically just use a story common story structure and plug in elements of your story



  • Easy to follow
  • Easy to organize and reorganize
  • Bird’s eye view
  • Helps identify key elements


  • Dull
  • May have to try different story structures out


  1. Free-Writing:


This is method I use a lot with in my outlining process. It’s basically just doing a dry-run of the story with low attention to detail. I use this when I have no ideas, but I think that writing will help me think clearer.



  • Intuitive
  • Engaging
  • Good brainstorming


  • Not easy to follow
  • May cause you to get lost or too focused on small details
  • May not help with the flow of the piece


  1. Contextual Preperation:


This one I think should just me standard if you’re writing a story. It’s not outlining the story elements or plot, just hammering out details about the world and the characters. What are the politics, climate, history, ruling class, etc. of the world and what are your characters’ motivations, fears, habits, ticks, appearances, history, etc..



  • You know what every element of the world will and won’t do
  • Good brainstorming
  • Good reference
  • Good descriptions
  • Good for pantsers
  • Goos motivation
  • You will probably use this


  • Long
  • Not step-by-step
  • No plot


  1. 3 Act 9 Part 27 Chapter Outline:


This is a basic structure that I’ve used before, more information here. You can manipulate the details, but it gives you points to touch on.


More information here.



  • Step-by-step
  • Good for making sure you touch on why things are happening and how your main character is influencing the plot


  • Dull
  • Need to make sure your chapters flow
  • Maybe not the layout you want


  1. Notecard Method:


Honestly I don’t understand this one. I think it’s useful if you have elements you want and don’t want to commit to a place for them yet. You can use notecards to move around elements easily. More information here.



  • Easy to manipulate
  • Easy to follow when it’s done


  • Long
  • Not easy in the brainstorming stage


Reading my old writing like: “Did I used to be good at this?”

Hey y’all, I have something to confess today: I have a bad habit. Sometimes when I can’t write, I reread my old writing. And I know I shouldn’t because I’m in the drafting phase when all that matters is moving forward, but I can’t help myself. Sometimes it’s a cringey experience like rereading my actual published novel which describes my main character’s period cramps as something that’s so bad she can’t even leave the bathroom long enough to solve the murder she’s been hired to solve (…*facepalm*), something which I only confess to you in the hopes that you will understand why I am so uncomfortable with the fact that my entire immediate family and some of my high school friends’ parents have read this. This is my life… I cannot even with that book. However, on some occasions I reread what I’ve written and I’m swept away into this world that I created, and I think “wow, that was actually good.”


I think I hate this more.


It’s like: “Did I used to be good at this?” Honestly, rereading the short story which my current project Roots is based off of, I’m amazed at what I did. Sure there are things I don’t like about it, but it engages me in a way that my writing for the Roots novel doesn’t. So my question is: why? Is it just because this is a longer project? Or because the subject matter isn’t as engaging as the actual climax of my novel? Or is it the outlining? Is it because changing my writing patterns and methods dried out my work? Was I better off as a pantser?


I’ll be the first to say that I believe in outlining. I think it’s made it a lot easier to jump into my work and keep it going, but I can’t help but to wonder if I still need to adjust the way I go about drafting to this new method. I don’t know how to change that, but I know that I need to do something to adjust my writing style back to the way it used to be a few months ago, without going back to the older me who clearly didn’t know what she was doing.

Are Your Hands Wet?