Playing with Words

a journey into the world of writing for young readers

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Mixing outlines with seat of the pants writing
michele on trike
This fall we had editor Jill Santopolo (Philomel) at our the SCBWI Fall Conference and she gave a workshop on outlines.
I thought to myself: Outlines? Who needs them.
Mostly because in the last book I wrote I didn't outline a single scene. I knew where I wanted to get to and let the process guide me. I let the characters take over the asylum and it was so much fun I thought I'm never writing another outline again.
But there was something about Jill's 10-point screenwriting outline that really intrigued me. And like when I find a really good recipe I want to try it out, see what works and what needs to be tweaked. (I cannot leave a recipe alone. Something always needs to be tweaked.)
If anyone is interested in the 10-point screenwriting structure, it's based on Freytag's Plot Pyramid: Exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and denouement (the new normal). I like the 10-point style because it adds a few other things like first character growth and second character growth.
So I used the 10 points as very vague plot markers, knowing that by one-quarter way through the manuscript I needed to hit the first character growth and the point of no return.
Then I took my previous revelation about freeing up the characters to do as they please and incorporated it into a very, very loose chapter outline, but ... and here's the genius part ... I only wrote out one sentence for each chapter and only outlined the next THREE chapters.
This way the characters could do what they wanted, and I could adhere to my loose structure and get the story under "control" at the same time.
Plus, it had this really nice side effect of allowing me to know kind of where I wanted things to go when I sat down at my computer. Which is always a plus.


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