Monday, September 22, 2014

Organizing your writing - Backwards outlining

How I organize my WIP...

Today I thought we could talk about one of my favorite subjects... Organizing.  A long, long time ago, I used to own my own cleaning/organizing business. I would get a tad giddy when my customers asked me to organize their storage areas. I know, weird right, but I loved it! 

It seemed only natural to carry it over into my writing.  

I discovered that my brain is a lot like a messy storage area. When I first started writing, I feverishly flew by the seat of my pants and wrote what every sprang from my thick skull, throwing away half of what I wrote in revisions or plotting errors. Once I finished, I outlined my book into chapters/scenes until I had a tidy spreadsheet. But I still thought there has to be a better way.

Epiphany--- Why didn't I organize my writing like I organized a room. I knew where I wanted everything to go, I knew the last scene. I knew what each character thought. *Head Slap - Why didn't I think of this sooner. Backwards Outline. I did a google search, and of course I wasn't the first one to think of this. Here K.M. Weiland talks about just this thing! Why couldn't I be the first, darn it. But I sure would apply it!

So I set out on my quest, Okay, it wasn't much of a quest but it sure was fun. 

  1. Know your ending -  Get a general idea of how your story will end.  For me this was easy. I already saw it in my head. Don't worry too much about getting it perfect, because in step 4 you'll be writing it out.
  2. Ask yourself questions -  How did they get to this point? Which characters were involved? Who did what, to whom? What happened and why did it happen? 
  3. Know your key players - For me, I had already written a few chapters, so I knew which characters I was going to use. But in the midst of it all, other characters emerged to help me get to the ending point. 
  4. Write the last scene - Roughly write it out. Don't obsess about the detail at this point, just get the idea on paper. 
  5. Next, OUTLINE.  Start from the last scene and work your way backwards until you get to the very beginning of the story. For me that meant a post it note for each chapter.
  6. Switch it around, organize your outline from beginning to end, until it flows. Surprisingly, even my sub-plots supported the end.
  7. Now the exciting part... Write, Write, Write. 
Will things stay the same as your original outline, probably not, but it does give you a broad-stroke plan to achieve your goal, a finished book. 

Good luck and go forth and Write!