Monday, April 25, 2011

An Award and a New Way to Outline

I was recently awarded the Versatile Blogger Award by a writer friend, Allyn Stotz.  Thank you, Allyn!  Be sure to check out her blog at:, and watch for her upcoming picture book, The Pea in Peanut Butter.  Now I have to pass this award on to some deserving friends, and then tell you something about myself you might not know...or even want to!

Seven Things About Me You May Not Know:

1.  I trained my first unbroken 2 year old filly at age 10.
2. I had my first poem published at age 10, and my first short story at age 12.
3. I sang at the Hollywood Bowl ( Hollywood, CA) when I was 16.
4. I am deathly afraid of spiders and snakes, all kinds, shapes, sizes, colors, and poisonous or not.  Daddy Longlegs give me the creeps.
5. I published a book of Haiku poetry when I was in college.
6. I have traveled to 34 states, and traveled to or lived in 9 foreign countries.
7.  I have three weaknesses:  my husband, my Corgi, and chocolate.

Now to pay it forward: here are the blogs I've nominated for the Versatile Blogger Award:

Many writers hate to outline.  Have you ever thought about doing your plot outline as a three act structure?  We all have to have a Beginning, Middle, and End to our stories, so why not think of these elements as a three act play?  For example:

Act I
Opening hook
Introduction of the main character
Introduction of the secondary characters
Show the relationships between all the characters:  most of your secondary characters are introduced in the beginning of your story, so there is a relationship there, even if minor.
Establish time line or era, and setting of the story
Describe the beginning of the major conflict: what the MC wants or needs
First Act Climax:  here is where something unexpected happens to turn things around and possibly send the story or the MC in a new direction.

Act II
Develop the relationship between the characters more strongly
Develop the sub plot or plots
Develop these subplots to show how they and the secondary characters affect the MC, and whether they are, in effect, "friends or foes"...working to help her or working behind the scenes to hinder her
Describe and develop the external and internal conflicts the MC is going to face and have to overcome
Describe and develop the steps  the MC has to take to overcome her conflicts
Describe and develop the events which occur that cause tension and conflict, and which hinder the MC in her attempts to achieve her goals
Second Act Climax:  This should be the high point of the story, the action-packed scenes which cause the MC to either succeed in her attempts to reach her goals, or to have some kind of action or event that will prohibit her from doing so.


The third act is the "End" of the story, where all the loose ends are gathered up and tied in a pretty little knot. Here you make sure that your characters, their intermingled relationships, and the subplots have all interwoven perfectly, and that nothing is left to the imagination that should not be.  It's one thing to leave your readers wondering or hoping that there might be a sequel to see what could have happened next, but you should never leave them up in the air about some event or issue that should have been resolved within the story.  The conclusion is showing how the MC deals with either having succeeded in resolving the external and internal conflicts, or how she comes to terms with having failed at resolving either, or perhaps both.  Remember, all stories do not have to have a happy ending, just a satisfactory one that leaves nothing unsaid or undone.

"Plot as a Three Act Structure" does not have to be followed step by step, but it does give you an idea of how to go about planning your story without actually doing an outline.  If you're like me and hate to outline, this has been an easier way for me to decide what scenes and actions should go where.

Until next time,
That's a wrap.


  1. Your first poem published at age 10 is a real achievement! By the way, Happy Easter...This may be a late greeting. Nonetheless, it won't hurt...Thanks! Daniel

  2. Wow, that's really awesome that you had your first poem published at age 10 and you are still going at it strong! And you've been to 9 foreign states. Sounds like you've had quite a life so far!
    Your outlining method is exactly how I do it, IF I do outline. Most times I just charge right through with no outline in mind. A lot of times I start with the title and build the story from there.

  3. Thanks, Daniel, and a Happy (belated) Easter to you, also! "Painting Tips and Tricks"...does that mean you are an artist? I am too, taught art for 20 + years, and still love it, although now I'm concentrating on being a writer.

  4. Allyn, I hate to outline with a passion! When I stumbled across this method on the Internet, it was primarily for writing a mystery ( which I'm also in the middle of), but I've found that it's really helpful no matter what genre you're writing in. However...umm...I'm more like you...just start writing and see where my characters take me...since they usually don't want to do what I want them to!

  5. Interesting. I might have to try it with the novel currently swirling around in my mind. Even though I'm more like you - I normally just start writing and hope the characters take me in the general direction that I want to go. I'll let you know!

    Never knew you sang at the Hollywod Bowl.

    Congrats on winning the Versatile Blogger Award.

  6. Congrats on the award, Mikki!

    I love outlines, chapter summaries, and the like. I've become such a planner. It takes time, but it is worth it in the end. The story is much more clear and easier to write. I still stray from my notes when my characters see fit, but I love having a guide.