These approaches, no matter what people say, seem to be created equally. But each type faces its own unique problems. The plot-focused writers tend to worry about their characterization being rich enough and deep enough and real enough, and the character-focused writers tend to worry that their plots are too loose, too thin, maybe not even present. How, though, could both types learn to bolster their weaknesses while celebrating their strengths?
That’s where this particular outlining method I’ve discovered comes in. I say “discovered,” though I am not (I don’t think?) the originator. J.K. Rowling does something similar, and so do others, I’m sure. But it has made a world of difference in my writing and in my process, and it is one of the very few pieces of writing advice that doesn’t skew toward one writing “type” or the other. It’s a process--like everything, it seems--so feel free to follow along as you read, and please pardon my rudimentary drawings.
1) Get a piece of paper (or a few pieces of paper) and create one vertical column for each chapter of your book (or scene of your short story, if you’re doing short fiction.) Label each of them, beginning with Chapter One or the prologue, if you’re starting there.
Will this solve all writing-related problems? Sadly, no. It is simply a tool. But with this outline, it becomes much easier for plot-oriented writers and character-oriented writers to keep in mind their weaknesses as they celebrate their strengths. So give this a try sometime. It can only help.
Kate Pentecost is a writer of YA fantasy, horror, alternate history, Southern gothic, and weird west. She has an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts and has spoken at several international conferences. She is represented by Sara Crowe of Harvey Klinger, Inc. and her first novel is currently under consideration of two major publishers.