Today, I want to talk about the one-paragraph chapter outline. It's an outlining method for Gardeners who most often pants their work. If they are a Skeleton Gardener, then they only have the framework to go with and fill in the world as they go. If they are an Iceberg Gardener, then they have a full, rich world to draw random clues from. Both have their advantages and disadvantages, but I covered that in my world building guest post. If you want to know more about Skeletons and Icebergs, go check out that post at Fetching Figment.
So, why outline as a Gardener? Isn’t that more of an Architects realm? In a way, it is. But they need to learn how to pants through their outline while Gardeners need to learn how to structure their pantsing.
This is why I want to discuss a method of outlining for Gardeners called, the one-paragraph chapter outline. It could have other names, but that is what I call it.
What is a one-paragraph chapter outline? That’s simple. After gathering your starting point (Some people start with a world or characters. I start with a magic system then add the good guys and bad guys and come up with a reason for them to have a conflict. Then I create a Skeleton world around it by asking how would people in this world interact because of this magic system) think of an opening line. (Your opening line will change in future drafts as it always does, but having a place to start with your characters in motion is nice.)
From there, just write 1. and write a single paragraph (Sometimes more, but try not to do too much more) about what is going to happen in that chapter. Fall into your character’s mind and allow them to control the story. Pants from chapter to chapter (2. 3. 4. Ect) until you reach an end. This will allow you to pull the entire story out of your mind while it is fresh.
Then, you need to go back and create a 1-page synopsis to gather your conflict and make sure you have a solid story.
After that, revise your one-paragraph chapter outline then revise your magic system, characters and world. Let them set for a while and revise them one more time. Go write something else for about a week or two to let the ideas and characters stew in your mind then kick off chapter one and hammer through your outline. Don’t strictly follow it, but use it as a guide to take you through the story. Anytime your characters take you to a place far outside of your one-paragraph chapter outline finish that chapter. Write the next chapter. Then, revise your outline to compensate for the major changes. When you’re finished with that, get back to writing and repeat the process until you reach the end of your first draft.
At the end of the first draft, revise your one-page synopsis to fit the new story and hit the second draft while the whole story is fresh in your mind. While going through the second draft, take notes as to events and things that need to be foreshadowed better in the next draft. Anything that sticks out in your mind, as well. Revise your one-pagesynopsis again after that draft and let it sit for a while. A few months or so. Do another project, revise an old project or catch up on some reading and studying. After that, it’s just polishing over and over again.
I hope this helps to improve your writing.
Thanks for reading,
Next: The red pen