How to Turn Your Book Idea into Money in the Bank, Step 2: Outlining

If you are trying to build a writing career without spending a fortune, or are simply looking for ways to improve your writing/publishing/marketing skills, you have come to the right place.

I created Take it to the Bank to share what I have learned on my journey, in the hope that it will save new writers time and cut back on their frustration and learning curve.

In the first post of this series sharing the chapter points of my little guidebook, we covered the importance of hitting the pause button to record a story idea when the inspiration strikes, and the joy of fantasizing that idea into life (fantasizing is giggity-good fun).

All the best authors Outline

In this second post we will cover the main element of the second chapter of the guidebook, which covers the key tool, Outlining. Best-sellers like Ray Bradbury, Ursula K LeGuin, and John Grisham adamantly promote the usefulness of outlines. As Ursula K LeGuin puts it: ‘A complete outline is absolutely necessary before beginning to write.’

Having an outline to hand when beginning to write gives you a number of benefits. It serves as a reference point. It will keep your narrative cohesive, and speed up the writing process itself.

The methods for acquiring the necessary information to include in your outline are as follows:

  • Researching
  • Note-taking
  • Reading
  • Traveling

Regardless of your genre or subject matter (and no, it doesn’t matter if your idea is for a work of fiction or nonfiction), you will need to do some research. Science-fiction and historical novels require more research than urban fantasies or thrillers, but each one calls for its own particular studies. Remember: real-world details will help create the illusion of reality.

Take notes of all your research findings and all the little tidbits which occur to you to expand your story world.

Reading inside and outside your genre is the best way to get a feel for the specific tone and pace and atmosphere of your story. So go ahead and take a stroll outside your comfort zone. Writing a mystery involves understanding not only mysteries, but aspects of thrillers and police procedurals and psychological suspense. Reading in multiples genres expands your understanding of writing, and by extension, will improve your own written world.

BUT I DON’T KNOW WHAT GENRE IT IS!

Laura Whitcomb in her writing guide, Your First Novel, offers this advice concerning the discovery of your books’ genre:

‘If you are unsure of the genre in which your new book idea falls, check out ten books in each of several genres and read a page or two from each book. If you think you’re writing fantasy, check out ten fantasy books and read a page or two from each. Do you still think you are writing fantasy?’

This applies to all genres.

Finally, it is vital that you expand your view of the world by traveling.

Walk down city streets at night; take in the street racers, who emerge like nocturnal animals to race each other up and down Main. Take a day trip to another city or the next state over. You’d be surprised how different the world looks through the filmy windows of a Greyhound bus. Listen in on conversations. It is a writer’s privilege and responsibility to eavesdrop. This is how we pick up the ebb and flow of realistic dialogue. The cues and silences and interruptions that fill a conversation will open up before you as you lean forward, tilt your head, and rubberneck your fellow passengers as they discuss their boyfriend/girlfriend, school triumphs, kids, financial woes, and the juicier sides of life.

During all of these things, by the way, you should be taking notes—unless you possess eidetic imagery, in which case, aren’t you special.

Your finished outline should include (at least) the following 4 subjects in detail:

  • World-building – Flora and fauna, social conventions and oddities, languages and slang, the rich and the powerful and the mighty and poor
  • Mini Character Bios – Record physical details of your entire main and supporting cast. Also include their passions/hatreds and motivations. What makes them unique?
  • Scene and Chapter Outlines – Most importantly, include the beginning, middle, and end chapter outlines. Most of the rest will come to you as you write
  • Setting – This goes along with world building, but here you will jot down in greater detail all the little things that bring your world to life, like the critters and any odd weather phenomena. In his fantasy series Codex Alera, Jim Butcher employs Furies, elemental spirits which effect all things and people.

HOW LONG IS AN OUTLINE?

Your outline should be anywhere between 20 and 50 pages, but it all depends on your book and genre and what you feel is right. This 20 or so page bugger will help you keep track of the hundreds of details that even authors get confused on (was Jenny’s scar on her right cheek or her left?), and which would otherwise lead to continuity errors that studious readers will catch and call you out on. Writersdigest offers some excellent tips for outlining.

Outlining also gives you the inherent advantage of allowing you to write continuously, instead of constantly stopping to do more research and indulge in episodes of brainstorming; it’s all there, ready to be perused, picked up, and written. Outlines allow our writing to flow, smooth and steady as she goes.

For greater insight into the importance of this vital writing tool, and the other 8 tools you need to turn your book idea into money in the bank, check out the guide here, on discount for a short time for only .99 cents.

Tool #1 – Conceiving your story idea and fantasizing it into life

Tool #2 – Outlining your cool/original/super-awesome idea

Upcoming Tool #3 – Writing your cool/original/kick-butt story idea like a pro