Revising Outlines

by Darcy Pattison

One of my current projects is working on a synopses and outlines for a proposed series, both of which are used in marketing of a series. A friend said that one of the proposed outlines didn’t seem like it was enough for a full book, but just a major scene in a book. So, I’m revising the outline. The early planning stages are a good place to see the overall outline of the story and make sure you’ve planned enough conflict. Here are some things I’m checking:


Is there an overall conflict that allows an exciting narrative arc? Is there conflict specifically between the antagonist and protagonist? In the subplots, the major allies function as antagonist and protagonist on a smaller scale. Do I have conflict and a narrative arc between them? Is the conflict internal or external? Can I push the internal conflicts toward an external expression that will allow for exciting action scenes? Is there a climax scene for each subplot? Do those subplot climaxes contribute to the main conflict?s climax?


Do the characters face internal struggles? What would be the worst thing that they could possible face? How can I work that into the story to make them face exactly that thing? How can I raise the stakes for each of the major characters?

Overall Uniqueness

What would be the most surprising thing that could happen? How can I make that happen? Can I bring in something very odd, but fascinating? What have I heard lately, read lately that could dovetail in an unusual way with this story? For example, I just read about a man who was the civil engineer who laid out the roads system in Sing-Sing Prison. Wouldn?t that be a fascinating thing to add in somehow to a story? Or to use for a setting of a story? The construction of Sing-Sing. I wonder what secrets the buildings there hide? (It?s totally unrelated to the story I?m working on! Just fascinating trivia. Which is where some stories really take off and become unique.)


I’m thinking about how the magic in this world works. Checking names and making sure there’s a good variety. Thinking about setting–could I draw a map of this world? Does it lay out physically? I know. Some people hate to plan ahead, hate to outline in any fashion. Instead, they like to follow their characters around. I don’t want to get into THAT argument, because I think everyone has their own way of working.

For this project, though, I need a synopsis and outline to sell the project. Which means, I’m revising the outline, trying to hook the editor with something interesting.

Tomorrow: Voice Friday

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