When is your book outline good enough?

Written by Dan

Dan is a professional author of Science Fiction and Fantasy novels.

September 11, 2019

As I continue to work on my debut novel, I likewise continue to learn as I go.

I’ve been following a mix of McKee and Egri in my story-building process. First, I’ve identified a main plot, and three subplots. Then, I gave each a color, as you can see in the picture. I think I’ve got 25 items there. I didn’t come up with that number as a goal or anything; it just worked out that way. Each item signifies a signpost/milestone that I want to be sure and hit in the book.

That’s not my full outline, though. That’s just step one. Next, I’ll be following McKee’s teaching to create a step outline for the book, which will use the signposts as a guiding light, but add more detail. My plan is to have about a sentence to describe each scene in the novel.

I fully expect that as I go, I will edit the colored signposts, add things, take things away. In the end, my goal is to achieve cohesion between those items and my step outline, with one being the 30,000 ft view, and the other one dealing with the details.

Should I have done more work before starting the step outline? Probably, but I’ll find out for sure in the days ahead. I’m figuring this whole thing out as I go, which every writer has to do for himself/herself.

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1 Comment

  1. Lissa Johnston

    Dan as I’m reading this (and admiring your skill at putting the color coding to work), I realize I need to improve how I identify and track subplots in my current WIP. I’ve written in a couple, but I’ve been so focused on the main story, I haven’t given them the attention they deserve. This left brain tactic paired with D’Costa’s advice on using subplots to show stakes (right brain) seems like the perfect combination.


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