Have you noticed that there are LOADS of ways to make an outline for your novel? There’s Save the Cat, the Story Grid, The Hero’s Journey, The Heroine’s Journey, Romancing the Beat, and the beat goes on. It seems that everyone who has ever written a book has their own method, and they are quick to offer it as the answer for you.
I will let you in on a secret…most of these systems are pretty much the same. What they do is figure out the main “beats” of the story, based on successful books and movies, and then repackage them. This isn’t to say that the ideas are not useful, they are. But the truth is that there is no one way that works for every writer or every book. The trick is to find the one that works for the book you are writing; it might not always be the same one. It might be a combination of more than one. You might need to get creative. One book might work as an example of more than one outlining style.
Even after you have identified the “tent pole” scenes, you still have to make each one work—it needs an arc, it has to have tension, the plot has to move forward, there is so much to think about! So what’s a writer to do? Decide what kind of story you are telling and make the best outline you can. Identify the important scenes and work them over first, making sure there is a cause and effect chain to tie it all together.
Then, when you revise, do it all again!
What is your favorite outlining method?