A Case for Outlining Part 3: The Outline’s Structure

There is a benefit that I brushed on in one of the earlier posts for A Case for Outlining, that was getting a bird’s eye view of your story. In my experience in working with outlines for stories, this boils down to how I was able to structure the outline and thus the story. This helped expand my view of what I was working on and how I could play with story tempo and where I could use effective cuts to get to other characters.

I usually begin with breaking the outline into chapters. This gets the information onto paper and start really working on building the future happenings within the story. From here I can either keep this form of structure or I can start looking at the story arcs that happen within the story. Grouping the chapters into the arcs that they contributed to helped get a bit more detail into the story. I was able to discover so many different story details, ideas and scenarios that I was able to really get into the story and re-work it into a stable multi-work series that escaped the feeling of being trapped in the first book. (Something I really struggled with when I first stepped away from the story).

Being able to organize my chapters into story arcs really helped form the story over the long term. I was able to fix the feelings of rushing towards the end and actually tie up the loose ends that naturally come from writing a long story. I was also able to give secondary characters their own attention and deepen the main characters. (Ascendance deals with a large main character cast, though the bulk of the story is told from Kira’s POV).

Though I haven’t been able to comfortably break the outlines into book 1 & 2, I have been able to see where I could wrap the stories up according to the different story arcs that are going on. At this stage of writing, organizing my outlines like this have really helped me get a sense of scope of the story I’ve been working on. Not shying away from shorter than normal chapters helped set the table to get the transitions into place, and really helped by beta readers get into the world that I had created.

As for me, playing with my story like this has given me a new respect into the job of editors, who help writers craft their stories into this style of thought and organization. I’m looking forward to pushing my craft forward and seeing where Ascendance takes me.Do you guys like to think about your stories as just chapters or try to collect them into story arcs? It’s something to really think about since I’ve usually not considered this aspect as I was writing, only during editing or polishing.

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