OMG! This outlining method changed my life!
So, I’ve been watching Kat @Kat_tastic for several years. A couple months ago she started a weekly writing vlog series showing her process while she drafted a new manuscript. During this vlog she talked a lot, and I’d heard her mention it before but didn’t take much notice because I’m a pantser, about the way she outlines. She calls it the 3 act, 9 block, 27 chapter method.
Since I started writing, I’ve struggled with plot structure. I’m a pantser. I get an idea and start writing. Or, at least, that’s what I thought. Turns out I’m a bit more hybrid and need some sort of outline before I start drafting to avoid creating a mess too overwhelming for me to clean up. (Which is where I am with A PRELUDE OF DRAGONS. My God, that thing is a mess!)
Now, I’m not going to go into detail about how to use this 3 act, 9 block, 27 chapter plot structure since Kat did this expertly in her video.
But I will tell you how it worked for me.
Before, when I got an idea I wanted to turn into a novel, I had a very limited view of my character, the world, and their journey and started drafting to discover all these things. I did this because, for me, once the story was told one time, I couldn’t bring myself to tell it again. (Revisions are a different animal, btw. I can revise just fine.) I started pantsing after I realized that outlining ruined every story I tried to write because it was this clinical way of telling the full story without actually telling the story. When I outlined, my brain perceived the story as told and I couldn’t focus on writing it again with dialogue and prose. So the story died.
Since I’ve been writing more consistently the last three years (HOLY COW! It’s been legit 3 years this month!) and learned WAY more about craft, my ability to write through my mental blocks has improved a lot! And one of the things that has changed the most is my world building, character profiling, and general brainstorming because I actually do it now. Before I draft.
Though all of the changes I’ve made to my process have improved my characters and worlds and helped flesh out my ideas, none of them have improved my plots.
That’s why I bit the bullet and gave Kat’s plot structure method a try. It’s completely different than everything I was ever taught about outlining. I always thought outlining had to be this clinical, precise list of everything that happened in your book.
With Kat’s method, all I have to do is plug in all the information I already have from brainstorming. And when I’ve used up all the information I already had, I can see what I’m missing and fill in the blanks so I have all my beats. But this isn’t the whole story and that’s why I love it! There’s still a lot of discovery to be done in between all the beats. This method satisfies my discovery process and gives me the direction I desperately need!
Plus, it gives me constant milestones. I don’t have to rely only on word count to see my progress. Now, I have finishing a chapter, a block, an act! For example, last night, I finished the first draft (albeit very rough) of the first block of THE GODWING WAGER. (Yes, I know I said I was setting it aside but this is the one that was calling to me. I’m a strike-while-the-iron’s-hot kind of writer too. I’m working on it.) I’m 1/9th of the way done with my first draft! It’s amazing! (Ignoring the fact that I already had 30K+ words on this because they were an absolute mess for lack of any direction or plot.)
The picture below is what my word count looks like right now. I’m aiming for 2K words per chapter but not at all holding myself to that. Chapters can be more or less as long as I write everything I need to get my point across for this first draft. If you’re doing the math, that means my total word count goal for draft one is 54K.
These 5 scenes make up the first 3 chapters/first block of this first draft.
I’m only 2 days into using this method, so it’s yet to be seen if it has the power to see me through an entire draft but I’m hopeful. The first 24 hours after I decided to try this, I outlined the entire Godwing trilogy. Let me tell you, my confidence to make a readable book and series is through the roof now that I know where I’m going but am still able to discover how I’m going to get there.
So, what do you think? Do you think this could work for you? What are your methods for getting your story down and being happy with it?
Thanks for reading and being awesome. Keep moving forward!