This is Part 2 in the Writing Tools series. You can find Part 1 here.
In this post, I want to talk about a tool that is both old and new in some respects. If you're familiar with K.M. Weiland and her website Helping Writers Become Authors, then you're also probably familiar with her craft writing books. One set in particular seems to be her most popular - the Outlining Your Novel Book and Outlining Your Novel Workbook duo.
Now, I have both of these books in hard copy and digital, but I'm going to say flat out that for me - it's really hard to actually "do" the steps in the workbook. It's that whole "thou shalt not write in books" thing. Plus, I know I'll be outlining more than one novel and I don't really want to buy a new copy every time I want to outline. And then there's the problem of following the steps from the actual book without having the questions laid out.
So there's a dilemma, right? Because the stuff inside these two books? Good, good, stuff. But I found myself not being able to utilize them to their full potential. Until K.M. Weiland came out with her Outlining Your Novel Workbook Software.
Not only is the perfect solution to my problem, but it intertwines both the lessons and the workbook elements to make it an extremely robust system. And because it's so robust, I'm not going to be able to go over every little thing about the software. My hope is that you see how beneficial it can be for your own process and decide to give it a try. Plus, K.M. has extremely tutorials on how to use the software on her website. So you might think there's a huge learning curve, but trust me, it's so easy to use! So, let's get started.
First, I want to show you all the categories and subcategories because it's CRAZY intense.
Just like with One Stop for Writers, this software allows you to jump around and do as little or as much planning. In fact, there's so much that you can do with the software that you could get lost down the rabbit hole of planning! But so much of it really gets you thinking about the deeper elements of your story and that allows you to create three dimensional characters and scenes instead of surface level ones.
There are plenty of prompts to get you thinking about your characters as well as areas that ask you to "free write" and just explore. Though some of the questions may seem redundant and basic - by the time you're finished, you will have a very detailed and rich outlook on your characters.
One thing I LOVE about this software is the scene/plot planning capabilities. The software prompts you to start at the beginning with "What if" questions and what's expected/unexpected. You can choose any prompts to get you thinking about the trajectory of your story and when you're ready, you can start adding scenes to the scene list.
You can add them willy-nilly or you can use the "structure skeleton" to guide you. After you've added a scene, you'll be then given the opportunity to expand on that scene with specific questions and qualifiers. Once you have a good chunk of your outline finished, you can even go over it with the scene checklist to make sure it's hitting all of the most important elements.
If you're more of a "big-picture" type of plotter/planner - you might like to start with the three biggest chunks - first act, second act, third act. This allows you to plan the "big moments" first and then drill down to the smaller scenes later if that's your preferred method. When the time comes that you feel good about your outline, you can see it in the "scenes list" and either export it or print it. What's interesting to note is that you can also color code your scenes by the level of "completedness" it is. For example - anything in blue is a "solid and important" scene. Anything in red is an "incomplete" scene - one where I need to figure out something about it. Green is a "could be a throwaway scene." So then, when you print it off, you'll also be able to see the color coded scenes as a guide.
Another neat thing is that when you do mark something as "red" in the scene list - the program will automatically place it under the "connecting the dots" section. This is a compilation of the scenes you need to work through until you can turn it blue or green. They provide some prompts to help you figure it out.
That all sounds very overwhelming, right? But K.M. and the software developer made it VERY easy to figure out how to navigate the software and the prompts. They have a very robust help section that gives a fly out response when you click on a particular section.
But you don't have to go back to the help section every time you need some knowledge. When you're within a category or subcategory, you can click the "i" icon and it will bring up some information and helpful examples.
As you can see - this software is intense and meticulously thought through, which is why I enjoy using it so much. I have to admit that I only scratched the surface of what you can do with it, but I figure it's better to leave some things to mystery! If you're interested in getting a deeper look at the software in real-time - check out these tutorials from K.M. herself. And if you're ready to dive into planning - go ahead and purchase the software below!