Friday, February 17, 2012

The Art of Chapter Outlines

Okay, the title of this post isn't completely true. I'm still learning how to write chapter outlines, and they tend to be very rough. Numbered chapters followed by a rough paragraph of “And then this happened...” Yeah, it's a bit amateur, but I'm getting better at it, slowly but surely.

In my last post, I talked about how to write chapters, as short stories without endings to keep things going. It's a trick which works very well for me. But this trick also presented a problem.

If chapters don't have endings, how the hell am I supposed to know where to end a chapter?!

This is where chapter outlines come in handy. Overall, I find if a chapter summary is longer than a paragraph, it's too much for one chapter, break, start new chapter. It's quite useful.

I also find that chapter outlines are the most unstable and will change all the time as I'm writing and the story evolves. With my latest finished thriller, there were many moments I found certain events worked better in other chapters and I was constantly switching things around. I began seeing the summaries of each chapter like puzzle pieces. Some pieces just fit better in other spots.

And there would be no way for me to tell until I had written up to that point.

It can be frustrating to feel like I have to go back ten steps and switch things around. Yet that's the hard work aspect of crafting fiction, and it can also be very fulfilling once a puzzle piece fits perfectly in place.

Maybe I'll refine the process of chapter outlines as I write more books. After all, I do plan on writing books for a long time.

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