Novel Writing

How to Outline a Scene like a Pro

Hello, lovely people, I hope you are well? You are? Great! I know I am, it’s Friday after all! The last few days I have been outlining my scenes so that I am ready for Camp NaNoWriMo in July.

I’m reading an amazing book by CS Lakin called The 12 Key Pillars of Novel Construction which I have found invaluable. Lakin gives a scene checklist which I recommend you get your hands on.

I have used this to ask myself set questions per scene, and they are helping me so much I thought I would share them with you. Let me know what you think!

​What is the action or revelation that is the high impact crux of this scene?

What new information will this scene tell the reader?

What is the purpose of the scene?

What do I want the reader to know by reading this scene?

What is the protagonist reacting to here?

What added extra sparkle does the scene have?

Where does the scene begin?

What action is taking place when the scene starts?

How is it different to the opening of the scene before?

What is the POV?

How will I show this POV in the first few sentences?

How will I show the passing of time from the last scene?

What is my hook that grabs the reader at the start of the scene?

Imagine I’mΒ in the scene, note down the first five thingsΒ my senses notice.

List all the conflict that will take place in the scene.

How will the high moment stand out?

What juicy revelations that come further along in the book do I hint to?

How will I end in a way that excites the reader?

By the end what has been resolved or left hanging?

What do I want the reader to feel by the end of this scene?

What is the beginning middle and end of this scene?

Do you use a similar list of questions, or are you more of a pantser? As always I’d love your comments and any wisdom you have to share.

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24 thoughts on “How to Outline a Scene like a Pro

  1. Thanks for sharing this. I took a self editing course provided by https://bubblecow.com/about few months back. Its now a free course. I found many things I previously knew retold in a new light and it helped me tremendously. Their section on scene overview was one that i still refer to. Whether knowledge, location, emotion, physical objects, every scene needs to begin lacking a necessary element so by the end we’ve either gained or lost something that pushed the story forward. Hope that makes sense.

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  2. Also, I’m lost without plotting. But there is only so much plotting I can do before I lose focus on actual writing. I try to outline major scenes and plot points, then jump right into the story to figure out how to connect them.

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  3. Some really good questions on your list, though I have to ask, at what point you are asking them? Some of them I would definitely use (sensory information and what I want the readers to feel) on a first draft, but I think asking all of them at that stage would actually be premature. It feels like writing and editing simultaneously, which in essence is creation and destruction – which doesn’t work so well for me. From my perspective, a first draft doesn’t need to be polished (you don’t have to be right first time, only to write first time is a mantra I live by). However, once a draft is complete, I think an exhaustive list becomes invaluable to the editing process, and that is the point I would probably use such a list. Just my opinion, of course.

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    1. You have some very good points here, and I do agree with your destruction and creation point. I am trying to work out how I write my best work, so at the moment I am giving it a go when I come to writing I will see how I find it. Although I will keep this advice at the back of my mind.

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      1. That is fair. One piece of advice I have found invaluable is to know when to reject feedback. I offer a viewpoint that works for me. It may not be the same for you and I wish you success regardless

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      2. I have a tendency to go too detailed at the start, so I agree with your advice wholeheartedly. I just know I need to learn the hard way and make the mistakes πŸ™‚ Thank you for your advice. I really do appreciate it, there’s nothing better than good and wise advice

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      3. Here is another piece. Absolutely make mistakes. Learning the hard way is your friend, as a lesson learned the hard way is one you don’t forget. As for going too detailed at start, I over-write to start with. I also sometimes use passive voice, or miss out words. It all comes out in the edit, so it sounds like you are doing nothing wrong

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  4. Honestly, I’m more of a pantser, although reading lists of questions like that always gives me a deep calming sense of…something. I’m usually organized in every other area of my life, but when it comes to writing, I just can’t. Organizing and cataloguing every thought I have while writing just makes me more unproductive, for some reason. I will try out those questions, though! I’m trying to edit a book right now and that checklist looks like it could be useful. πŸ™‚

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    1. I think it is a good list to go back to. I’ve tried pantsing but I found I spent too much time staring at a blank screen. Hopefully plotting in detail will change that, but who knows!

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  5. Hi Amy. I discovered CS Lakin’s website, Live Write Thrive a few years back and The 12 Key Pillars of Novel Construction helped me sooo much with my first book. Shoot Your Novel is really good too as it looks at writing your novel as if you are using a camera and filming a movie. Thanks for sharing this post!

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  6. these are all great questions to ask yourself while writing. If you’re considering all of these points then your reader will be experiencing all of the results. However I don’t think you should ever slow down and/or stop mid sentence to make sure every base is covered – write write write and then polish those words in the second draft. That’s what works for me anyway.

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    1. Exactly. My thinking is that I will plan my scenes in details and then “word vomit” them out of the page, not stopping until I have finished the whole novel, and then editing πŸ™‚

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