OUTLINE ON A CLOTHESLINE - FOR PLOTSTERS AND PANTSTERS

Here are some notes from my workshop on Outline On A Clothesline - one more method of outlining that works for both plotsters and pantsters.
Remember, this is the short version. If you are interested in having me teach this session at a writer's conference or workshop, please contact me.

Outlining - what is it exactly?
Outlining is as simple as you'd think it is. It is laying out your story in chapters or scenes, from beginning to end.

For plotsters - this works by making notes on every scene in varying amounts of detail as you move your story forward, in other words, as much or as little as works for you.
For pantsters - this works by putting the stages of your story in order as you work to your black moment and resolution without needing to write down the details or action, because you don't know them yet.

One evening, watching one of my favorite shows, Castle, there was a quick view of Richard Castle doing pretty much the same thing as this, with a real clothseline strung across his apartment, and recipe cards hanging from clothsepins. 

You may or may not use actual clothseline, whether you do or not depends on the space you have in your home or writing area - you wouldn't do it in this exact way if you write with your laptop on your kitchen table. 

In order to write a novel tight, you have to know where you're going, and where you've been, as you move from scene to scene. For an outliner, the condensed version of this is to take a package of recipe cards and make notes of your story, writing a scene, or a POV section from a scene, onto a card, important plot points, important plot turns, and major conflicts. For me, this works best as I'm either reading or making my synopsis. I have the whole novel outlined, and I know exactly what happens and how it ends, including the black moment, including knowing my closing line, before I write the first sentence.  

Once all the scenes are written on cards, knowing the order is important, but at this point, not critical, this is where you hang them. First hang your opening, hang your closing scene. Pick what feels like the middle of the story, and hang it in the middle. 

Then comes the fun part. Hang your scenes in approximate order, and this is where you organize them. First, by importance of what happens and what follows. Then when everything is done, look at your scenes. Make sure you don't have similar scenes side by side. For example, don't have two fast action scenes together. 
There should be a contemplative moment or a personal scene with character growth between. Don't have two high conflict scenes together. This is where you separate them on your clothseline.

Once you have a good mix of action and contemplative moments, of conflict and tender scenes, scenes where it looks like the protagonist is sure to fail and moments where they get what they want, even for just a few minutes, then you're ready. Take your cards down, in order, as you write them. Or if you don't actually have them hanging on a clothesline, number them and put them in a pile and use the cards as your outline as you write your novel.

For a pantster, do pretty  much the same, but with less detail. You'd have your high and low moments in your head, so write those down. You'd know your beginning and ending, so write those down, too. Put those moments in order on the clothesline (or table). You'll find that working toward that next important step makes the ideas come to life in your head as you know what your final goal is at the end of that scene.

Good luck and happy writing

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