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  • Caitlyn Lynch

Non-Fiction Friday Book Review: Outline Your Novel by Scott King

Full title: Outline Your Novel: The How To Guide for Structuring and Outlining Your Novel by Scott King.

I have a confession to make: I am a pantser from way back. I’ve written 100,000 words stories by the seat of my pants based entirely off a strange dream I half-remembered in the morning.

However, as I progress in my writing career, nitpicky little things like deadlines and required submission of synopses and blurbs have started to crop up, and I have no choice but to learn to plot… and then stick to that plot and not let the random story gremlins run away in many different directions.

Therefore, I’ve been looking for methods to help me create a plot from a basic idea, expand it out to a full outline and continue to expand out, chapter by chapter.

Outline Your Novel contains that method. Scott King writes in a humorous, fun style, but he also lays out clear and simple methods to plot a book of any size and any genre from beginning to end, taking in all the major turning points and elements of a traditional three-act structure. It starts small, with a concept or blurb, and then encourages you to add more by including all the major events you want to occur in your story, in no particular order to begin with, but later sorting them out into the plot structure. King also covers character development and arcs, introducing small and large mysteries for the reader to become invested with, and plenty of methods to dig yourself out of plot holes.

Demonstrating the method by describing the process he went through to write a major fantasy novel, King discusses word building from scratch to a fully realised second world populated by multiple major and minor characters, and how to make even minor characters fully realised. His methods are sensible, clear and easy to follow, and at the end of the book he includes links to some free worksheets you can print out and work through yourself to create your own plots.

I’m definitely going to be giving this method a go, though writing in the romance genre some of the advice isn’t really applicable to me, so I guess what I mean is I’ll be incorporating some of Scott’s methods into whatever method I finally work out for myself to use. I’d recommend this book to anyone who wants to learn more about three-act structure, how to apply it to their own work and how to build a fully-realised plot from nothing more than a vague concept.

Five stars for a supremely useful read which will hopefully help this life-long pantser become a skilled plotter!

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