A Case for Outlining Part 2: The Guidepost Style

One of the more appealing aspects of Guidepost Outlining is that, you can still go freestyle, just using the outline as a reference. It really helps when I get stuck or rambling when I should be churning through. To get started in working the Guidepost Outlining you need to understand the two steps.

  • Mind Mapping-As it sounds, your just collecting your ideas on index cards, written out on paper or on a computer program or app. Keep these ideas or scenes succinct, keeping it to general notes of what is happening within the story itself. I prefer to group my cards into Chapters that have notes referring to the various scenes and story arcs within.
  • The Guidepost Outline-This is your story’s skeleton. Transferring the information within your Mind Map and giving more detail. Just enough to get your mind on the right track, without giving too much as to feel like you’re boxing yourself in. This varies for each writer and each project so it may take more than one try to get a formula to work.

The purpose of Mind Mapping is to help get the idea onto paper and start some form of organizing. It also gives the writer a very wide view of the story, and can span several books, story arcs and helps build a story timeline of critical events.

With this wide view, a writer can move around scenes and see if the pacing is correct for the story they’re writing. One thing that I really like to do is see if a scene or chapter is absolutely necessary, and shift them around, playing with action events and of course story pacing. Its really fun to see what happens within your story when you start shifting events around.

Some key questions a writer can ask of their story at this point:

  • Who do I want to tell my story through? Can I tighten the POV or change to POV styling entirely?
  • Are there points in the story that drag? Can I speed up the beginning by merging the early chapters?
  • Do I have loose ends that are left that I can snip or weave back in?
  • Am I letting my characters off easy or am I providing too many conflicts?

There are more, however I find these questions most helpful, especially when I was reworking Ascendance. If you’d like to see some examples of how I fill out my mind maps, let me know and I’ll have them uploaded.

Once you have your story mapped out, its time to translate them into your guidepost outline. This ideally means adding only the most critical details to your mind map cards, and putting them into a bullet pointed list, indenting when necessary (a common outline format).

I like to begin these outlines by working through my index cards, slowly collecting them up as I input the valuable information, notes and even specific scenarios and lines I’d like to see in the manuscript. Your taking another step closer when viewing your story, right now you’re building the story’s skeleton, and so, like with the mind map, you’re just adding another layer of detail.

When I get to this point in my writing process, I can get a closer look at the story itself. I start seeing where I can manipulate the pacing, paragraph structure and timing. When I was working through my story Ascendance, I began seeing new plots and subplots that I had originally missed and nuances of my characters.

By taking a step back from the grind of writing the story, and working on some meta planning. I was able to see that I had a lot more to work with. There was so much more to this story, this world that I had missed because I was working, page to page, with now actual view of what I’ve been working on.

I guess, that any tool in the writer’s tool box is only as effective as the one using it. If something doesn’t work with your style of writing, go search for something new. One of the true appeals of writing is that we’re constantly studying the craft as we practice it. Forming our own laws and decrees that influence our styles. What are your thoughts on outlining or even adding new tricks and techniques to your craft? Please comment below or feel free to follow my on Facebook.

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