Thursday, May 23, 2019

How to Write a Book in 15 Days: Speed Outlining (Day 1)

Salutations, my curious congregation. I'm going to sit down and talk about something crazy that is totally possible and I only recommend if you really need to get some words down and get something finished. You're going to have to edit the hell out of it but hey! Editing the hell out of it is kind of an inevitability.

On another note I want to thank you guys for chilling and dealing with my weird rambles while I was having medical issues. You're the best <3

That said. Yes, you read that title right. 15 days, oh the insanity. This is not going to be for everyone, but if you can smash a whole lot of words onto a page in a short amount of time (I am  talking 5k a day or more) this might work for you.

Content Warnings: Probably just the irreverence and swearing this time, I'm not dipping into anything dark or too weird. Oh, but I'm not responsible if you disintegrate. That probably won't happen.

Alright let me give a quick run down of this process really fast.

Day 1 is for outlining.
Day 2 is refining your outline, editing your outline and making sure everything fits.
Days 3-15 are just pounding your word count. I am talking 5k a day. But at that point you should have everything outlined and it should be...well not easy but at least plausible.

This is not a pantsing method.

So let's talk about Day 1. I have boiled down very specific scenes that could fit into a three act structure and give you a 60k novel. This is like a template. Even if you just straight take it and fill it out, expect things to change. They will change based on your genre, they will change based on your personal story, you might want to move some of these things around, and all of that is totally chill.

I have the heroes arc (setting up the dominos), the villains arc (or "complications"), the romance arc, and four trials that may or may not be related to all of that. 

And you know what, not all of that is going to fit for you. The point is to look at the pattern here, and sub in your own colors, and your own vague events, today. Basically...this is a thirty point structure for people like me who look at eight point structure and go "Great, but what do I put between those points?"

It's kind of like knitting from a pattern. If you're really good you can freeball it and you know what stitches to use and where, but if you're just starting sometimes you want a pattern to work from. Sometimes, you're a master knitter and you still want something easy to keep your hands busy. I threw this together as sort of an experimental thing to see if I could streamline my process a little more. I won't be doing this every time, but I am doing it this time.

So here are some ideas for what you can put between those plot points. The pattern.

#   What the Scene Is                      (Role in the story)
1   Set-Up                                        (Exposition)
2 Inciting Incident                           (Complication 1)
3 Kneejerk Attempt at Change        (Hero's Move 1)
4 Lick Your Wounds                       (Internal)
5 Attempt #2                                   (Hero's Move 2)
6 Salt in the Wounds                       (Complication 2)
7 All in or Bust                                (Internal)
8 Domino Attempt 1                        (Hero's Move 3)
9 Inkling of Love                             (Romance 1)
10 Trial by Fire                                (Physical Trial)
11 Pitch Point 1                               (Complication 3)
12 Domino Attempt 2                      (Hero's Move 4)
13 Desire Rising                               (Romance 2)
14 Trial by Wind                              (Social Trial)
15 Protagonist Fails Their Test        (Complication 4)
16 Protagonist Learns from Failure (Internal)
17 Domino Attempt 3 {reversal}     (Hero's Move 5)
18 Romantic Recoil                          (Romance 3)
19 Trial by Water                              (Emotional Trial)
20 Pitch Point 2                                (Complication 5)
21 Domino Attempt 4                       (Hero's Move 6)
22 Drawn Back In Together             (Romance 4)
23 Trial by Stone                               (Status Quo Trial)
24 One Last Swerve/Lapse of Certainty (Internal)
25 Kick 'em When They're Down      (Complication 6)
26 Standing Back Up                         (Hero's Move 7)
27 Dark Moment                                (End Sequence)
28 Desperate Attempt / Dragon         (End Sequence)
29 Climax                                           (End Sequence)
30 Epilogue                                        (Glimpse of the After)

Now I know some of you are looking at this like "wtf that's a lot of things". I just finished an outline using this pattern. I just went straight down the list and then when I was done and going over it to make it make sense added about three more scenes to it.

So let's just go over these and talk about what they mean.

First you're going to want your protagonist to want to resolve something very badly. Either something changed and they want to fix it, or some injustice has been done, or they want to be the best chef like no one ever was. Whatever. They want something.

Second, decide why they can't have it. There's a rival. The change was implemented by someone with more power than they have. The injustice was done by an unfeeling capitalistic government that pretends to run things fairly while lying to the people and systematically eliminating all of the voices that disagree with them. That sort of thing.

With these in mind, let us move forth. Oh, but one last note; there will be the kind of scene we're talking about, and then about where that should be in your word count. I've set this up so each section should be about 2k words long but it helps me to see where that is abouts in a 60k word novel and it might help you too, so that's what those numbers are.

Below you will find my breakdown. I left examples for my day 1 outline of my current WIP. They're written in white so you have to highlight them if you want to read them because they are kind of spoilers for this book and if you're planning on reading it you might not want those, but bear in mind this is also not the final outline and a lot has changed between today and yesterday.

Expect a lot to change for you, too. Day 1 is about getting rough ideas down and getting a concept sketch of your novel on paper.


Set Up (2000)

Establish your character. What they want. What they are missing. The world as it looks to them and what is wrong with it. Or set up the situation. When I did this the day before yesterday, I decided on a superhero story where a hero finds a villain and decides she wants to reform him.

So my set up is my hero, Rime, finding this villain, Kamuro, doing something dastardly, arresting him and basically saying "Repent or go to jail."

Inciting Incident (4000)

Your first complication. We know what your character wants. This is why they can't have it. This is where the rival steps in, or the injustice happens, or it's clear that this is going to be more complicated than the protagonist first expected.

In my case, Rime takes Kamuro back to the hero's HQ and is told if they're going to keep the deal she made with him she's going to have to basically babysit this guy and oversee his reform personally. He's her partner now and she's not thrilled about it.

Kneejerk Attempt at Change (6000)

Your hero's first move. The one that doesn't work full stop because they didn't think it through all the way.

Rime tries to get Kamuro reassigned. The heroes league isn't having it. She's stuck with him.

Lick Your Wounds (8000)

The recoil from this first attempt at change. The rebound. Give your hero a couple hundred words to feel sorry for themselves then figure out what they're going to do next. Maybe they aren't the type to feel sorry for themselves and they just skip right to step two. Fine, but this is gearing up for the second attempt.

Rime is stuck with Kamuro. She lays down ground rules and he pushes her buttons.

Attempt #2 (10000)

The next thing your protagonist tries to do the thing they want to do. It's a little better thought out but it's still not whole-hearted and it doesn't work, not perfectly or even partially perfectly.

Rime takes Kamuro with her on a distress call in an attempt to see what he's like on the field and under this misguided idea that he's actually going to cooperate. He lets a villain go when he could have stopped them.

Salt in the Wounds (12000)

Complication 2. That failure up there stings. These are the consequences of your protagonist donking up. What happens now, because they failed?

Rime is disciplined for Kamuro's actions. She's meant to be responsible for him. Because he's a character too and doesn't actually hate her, he gets kind of pissed at the way she's being treated for what he did. This makes it worse and also makes it better because it increases the trust between them and lowers the trust the league has in him.

All in or Bust (14000)

This is where your character is completely committed to their cause. Fuck you, they will do this, it doesn't matter how long the odds are.

Rime will make a hero out of Kamuro. He agrees to really try for her. He's not as sure about this as she is, but she's all in and that's the point here.


Domino Attempt 1 (16000)

Your hero is thinking long term now and setting up their dominos. Their first attempt in earnest now that they're thinking smart. We're dipping into the rule of three here, so this is probably going to be either Failure, Failure, Success, or Success, Success, Failure.

Rime takes Kamuro to an older hero for some training. This older hero is pretty harsh but fair, at least, and Kamuro complains the whole time.

Romantic Inkling (18000)

If you're gonna have a romantic subplot this is where it rears it's head. If your subplot has to do with something else, this is where you introduce it. Hint something else is happening. I am doing a romantic subplot, so I'm gonna play this straight. Hint that the characters could have something.

Rime and Kamuro banter. He makes her laugh and he's oddly charming in his weird way. She's in denial about it.

Trial by Fire (20000)

The trial by fire is a physical trial. If you aren't writing the kind of book with physical trials you can sub in any other kind here. You can do Fire all four times if you want. Any way you want to do this. But I'm doing one of each so I can showcase them.

Rime and Kamuro have to respond to an incident together and it turns out it's one of his old villainous buddies doing it. 

Pitch Point 1 (22000)

Complication 3. An outside force putting pressure on your protagonist and standing in the way of what they want. Doesn't have to be a person, can be like a storm or something, but pitch points fuck up the status quo and make your characters go on the reactive.

Kamuro's old friend Carrion offers to rescue him from the heroes and Kamuro is tempted to go. But he wants to see where this goes at this point so Carrion leaves him where he is. He's in a rare spying position after all. That's what he's telling himself.

Domino Attempt #2 (24000)

Part two of your hero setting up their dominos, second failure or second success. They take this from a slightly different angle.

Rime decides if taking Kamuro on missions isn't going to help him find himself, she needs to fix his PR a little bit. Charity balls are good PR but he needs new clothes for that so she takes him shopping. Again, he complains the whole time. Says he's going to look like a fool. He's had no problem with that in the past so fine. 

Romantic Desire Rising (26000)

If your romance is your sub plot it's okay to let them kiss here. This is for if you're not trying to let the romance take over the whole story. If this is another kind of arc this is where you put pressure on your sub plot. Raise the stakes.

This is not a romance story but this is a romance sub-arc. Ergo I gave myself 4 scenes to work with. So Rime and Kamuro actually go to this charity ball and have their first kiss on the dance floor. People see it. Suspicion is raised. Also it's kind of on a whim and they're both like 'but what does this mean?'

Trial by Wind (28000)

A trial by wind is a social trial. An attack to your characters friendships, relationships or reputation. Wind is the element of communication. Try to avoid problems that could have been avoided if your characters had a conversation with each other. In fact this is a good place to put that conversation.

In Rime's case, there's a love rival. Glazier is another hero at the league and he's had a crush on her forever. He questions Kamuro's presence and suggests Rime isn't unbiased enough to look after him. Kamuro starts a fuss back and forth, making a scene in public. No blows yet though.


Protagonist Fails the Test (30000)

Test your character's convictions. Test them on something that's a problem for them. If your character is trying to quit drinking this is where they get completely hammered. Whatever they are trying to change, they backslide.

In this case, it's Kamuro. He waits for Glazier to walk outside then goes out there and starts a real physical fight with him, like a villain would. Of course Rime catches them and breaks it up.

Protagonist Learns from their Failure (32000)

This is a fall and it involves getting back up. You might want to leave them down for a couple of scenes, make this sequence longer, but I'm doing a speed run, so I'm not doing that.

Instead, Kamuro understands what he did wrong. This is where he commits to doing better. And means it more than he did previously.


Domino Attempt 3 (34000)

This is the reversal. If your character's plans have been succeeding, they taste bitter failure here. If they've been failing this is their first success.

In this case, it's a little odd because Rime thinks she's been succeeding up until this point but she hasn't. Kamuro knows what's up. She takes him on a search and rescue for a missing child. Carrion has the kid. He and Kamuro have a conversation about Kamuro leaving and Kamuro finally tells him he isn't coming back. So this is actually the first success but she sees them talking and thinks it's her first failure.

Romantic Recoil (36000)

Something happens to drive a spike between your OTP. Or something happens to make the subplot look like it isn't going to work out. This is the dark moment for your subplot, if you're treating it like a mini-story in its own right.

Rime and Kamuro have a fight about Carrion. She doesn't trust Carrion and Kamuro takes her mistrust personally. They're throwing up walls against each other every which way.

Trial by Water (38000)

An emotional trial. Water is the element of feelings and fluidity. Attack you character at their heart. What they care about.

Rime's heart is kind of broken right now and Kamuro's pride won't let him go to her.

Pitch Point 2 (40000)

Like Pitch Point 1, something that shakes things up and puts your characters on the reactive.

Villains come to call. Kamuro fights to protect Rime. This doesn't say a thing for their relationship but he's still committed to being better. Carrion comes back for him (deeming their friendship more important than his principals) and gets taken in.

Domino Attempt #4 (42000)

Your character makes another push. Whatever pattern you've established, you can subvert it or play into it here. Failure Failure Success can lead into either another failure or another success and be just fine, just be aware of the tone you're setting here. Is this a high or low point?

Rime sticks her neck out at the hearing for Carrion and Kamuro tries to look innocent. She isn't as successful for him. It's kind of a mixed bag because she's decided to try and trust the people Kamuro trusts, which is by extension trusting his judgement. But at the same time she isn't succeeding with the league.

Romance; Drawn in Together (44000)

Basically this is where you wrap up your subplot. In the case of the romance, the ship sails. In the case of another kind of plot like if your character is trying to fight their landlord to keep their house, they get to keep their house here.

In Rime's case, Kamuro asks her why she took the risk for Carrion. She admits that she's attached to him. At this point they're pretty much together.

Trial by Stone (46000)

Attack the status quo. Earth is the element of stability. Attack what your characters think is true about themselves and the world.

Kamuro and Carrion discuss why they went wicked in the first place and Kamuro questions his allegiances. He decides Rime is worth it. He's not loyal to this system but he is loyal to her.

Lapse of Certainty (48000)

Your characters are making changes. This is where they hesitate. They aren't sure of what they've been sure of.

Another attack kicks off and Rime isn't entirely sure she can trust Kamuro and Carrion. Shifting the focus back to her here because they're co-protagonists, and both have their iffiness.

Note: It is really easy though to go from a Trial by Stone into a Lapse of Certainty for the same character, if they fail their trial.

Kick 'Em When They're Down (50000)

Add more. Break your character. They're questioning things, they're already on the floor, throw something at them before they get their bearings.

This villain attack focuses on Kamuro. He abandoned them, he betrayed them, they want to make him suffer.

Stand Up (52000)

You've been torturing your characters for this moment. This is where they get back up in spite of everything being on fire around them. Recommit to their cause.

Rime commits to getting to Kamuro even though he's been sequestered by these villains. By the time she reaches him, he's monologuing. Saying things contrary to what he told her. Shattering that trust.

Dark Moment (54000)

One last kick guys. This is the lowest point. Make it look like your character cannot possibly come back from this. It makes it much more impressive when they do.

Rime confronts Kamuro about the things he said. He protests but her doubt is still evident and he and Carrion run off together. It's bad news for her because the villains are still here, and bad news for them as a couple because...well.

The Dragon (56000)

Big Bad Fight Round 1! The trial your character faces in order to get to the bad guys. This can be either a separate challenge or a desperate attempt at the final attempt that doesn't work at first.

In Rime's case, she tries to fight the big bad on her own and it doesn't go so great for her.

Climax (58000)

The final swing. The fine point you've been building to this whole point. Whatever problem your protagonist has been trying to solve from page 1, this is where they resolve it. The final showdown. Deliver on all those promises you made.

Kamuro comes back for her to help Rime fight. So does Carrion. Ultimately, they win the day and Rime and Kamuro make up.

Epilogue (60000)

What your protagonists lives look like after the dust settles. A glimpse into what comes after.

And I'm not going to give an example from my WIP because the story has actually changed a lot from this iteration to my Day 2 Outline that I'll be covering on Tuesday.

Alright, that's all I got for now. I'll be back to break down Day 2 on Tuesday.

Fortune Favors,
Megan R. Miller

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