Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Before You Write, Part 2: Make an Outline

Did you get a chance to read Part 1 in this overall topic? I recommend that you read that first and then keep going with my outlining tips below.

Make an Outline

Outlines help you write to the recommended length for your genre and help you crystallize your vision for the beginning, middle, and end of your story. I like to outline my work, and I do it even when I'm not required to. This, I realize, comes from the more structured editorial side of my being; outlines always help me start and get through the work, but sometimes they do drastically change during the writing. Some writers don't need an outline, and some really can't work with them at all.

If you're planning to write all of your children's books before looking for a publisher, then I'd say making an outline is optional. But do understand that many publishers will require an outline as a precursor to seeing your manuscript. Sometimes they want to see it with your query, and other times they'll request it after reading your query, before committing to reading your manuscript.

At the very least, you'll need to get comfortable with creating outlines after you've done the writing. And if you end up working as a writer for hire in the education/school and library market (like me!), you'll certainly be required to submit a detailed outline as either the first or second step in any given project.

Outline structures can include any or all of the following elements:
  • Concept sentence
  • One-paragraph plot summary
  • Chapter-by-chapter summary
  • Spread-by-spread summary
  • Page-by-page summary
  • Paragraph-by-paragraph summary
  • Targeted and actual word count, sentences per paragraph or page, average sentence length, and reading level
May I just say that I still don't understand why text that follows bullet lists within Blogger displays differently than the typical style? I mean, the leading in this paragraph matches that used in the bullet text but not that which is used in the normal paragraph style. I wish I knew how to fix it!

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