Wow. Don’t start the day looking for opinions about outlining your novel. There is a treasure trove of information and examples, but with each gem, there is so much dirt and grime. Where people fall in the “outline or no outline” debate reveals some passionate points about art and craft and work and what it means to be a “real” writer. It’s all just shouting at your allies while author factories and AI steal readers. So, like, support each other, okay?
The reason I went on that doomed quest was to find other ideas about outlining backwards, starting with the resolution, and working your way back to the opening image. While I was freewriting yesterday, I thought this may be a good option for another project not associated with The Forest Book. It seemed like a natural fit, as this book is a different genre and more plot focused. I liked the idea of figuring out the solution and devising an epic way to get there and then slowly work the buildup. In a way it almost seemed natural.
I also think that the only reason this is appealing to me is that I’ve done a character study on my major (and a few minor) characters. There are possible plot threads that have developed out of that. Without that deeper knowledge of my characters, I don’t think outlining backwards would work as well. I have a clear idea of where I want these people to end up, what has changed about them externally and internally, where they are in their lives and careers, etc. Since I’ve figured out their ending, I feel more confident starting from there and unraveling the path they took. I’m actually a little excited to try this out.
It’s important to note here that outlining backwards is not the same as the reverse outlining, though backwards and reverse are temperamental synonyms. The reverses outline is typically done when you have a draft and you outline what you’ve already written. This can be an enormous help when dealing with plot or organizational issues as you can get a clear map of where you’ve been. People who are adamant pantsers can gain a lot of insight by reverse outlining without having to admit that outlines are helpful. They do it after the discover, you see? Nothing wrong with that. The muse has spoken, I guess.
The outlining for The Forest Book will be straightforward. As I’ve been building out the story using the Snowflake Method, I am nearing the moment when I can start sketching out scenes. After working out each character’s motivation, I feel closer to them and more aware of their desires, but also, surprisingly, have left quite a lot of space for spontaneous growth. As I get to the scene-by-scene, hopefully by the end of next week, I’ll have created a solid structure with room for play. Preptober is shaping up to be a time of experimentation for me and I’m thrilled. Remember, different books demand different things and it’s up to you to give the story what it needs.