by Angela DeRiso


There are many ways to outline and write a story, and knowing the road map for where you’re going is something most of us need. Sometimes it’s a vague idea with key events, other times it’s a complex web of plots with details filled in. However, when we know the extant of our own plan we can end up bored or lacking the inspiration to complete the project.

Strange as it may sound, I’ve found that outlining only a few chapters ahead in my work gives me motivation to continue. I have a general sense of what will occur in those chapters, but where they will lead is left open. Sometimes things will occur to me during the writing of these chapters that can be added to the plot, and overall makeup of the story. This part of the process is where thoughts seem like pieces falling into the right places in my work. For lack of a better phrase, it is the element of surprise that keeps me writing.

In taking this approach, you give yourself room to grow the plot itself, world building, and character development. With a smaller number of chapters you can craft small nuances and larger key events in the story without being overwhelmed. The goal is to advance the story in each new chapter, whether small or large details and events. Writing a three chapter outline is the connection of A, B, and C. They are steps on the ladder to the ending.

The viewpoint of your characters is very important within the chapters. How do the events of the story affect them? How do they feel? What are they thinking of doing next? This is where their mental states should be on display. Some chapters can even be ended with a cliffhanger for added suspense. Keep in mind that some events can drastically change a character, or their motivations. Remember this when writing any traumatic or catastrophic events in a character’s life.

As with the beginning of most stories, you need a hook in each chapter to keep your readers attached to the story. You can use a strong character voice to narrate, or describe the unusual imagery of your world, and a character’s experience within it. Hiding information, as in something missing from a character’s past, or leaving a piece of information hidden until later is another great hook.

Starting in the middle of the action is yet one more you can use to jump right into a battle, or a high speed chase scene.
Philosophical statements can be utilized as hooks, too. By imparting a poignant philosophic concept in your hook, you add greater meaning behind the ideas of your story. Paradoxes and contradictions often reach the readers on a deeper intellectual and emotional level. If used in context, this particular hook will certainly add a moment of deep thinking for your audience.

Be sure to keep your outlines on hand for reviewing while writing. This will serve to keep you on the road to your goal. You will be able to make revisions easier, and make sure any changes will still line up with your main plot. Jot down new ideas in a box for each chapter when they come to mind, and then work them in as you write. As you finish details or plot points in each chapter, check them off to remind yourself of what’s done.


How I Create 3 Chapter Outlines

Create short descriptions, only noting significant events in the story and with your characters.

Leave last chapter open ended, or add hints for any new ideas you might have.

Describe how your characters feel in the beginning and end of each chapter.

Have a hook to keep your readers interested, something adding suspense is always great.

Be aware of how each chapter will advance your story.

Number each chapter to keep track of how far along in the story you are.

Remember, you can leave these chapters as open ended as you like. Only you know where you want the story to go.

Review these outlines often. This will help to keep you straight on your goals.

Write down any new ideas for each chapter, and keep them on hand along with the outlines so you can make sure they line up in a way that makes sense for your story.

This technique will work for writers who’s wheels are always turning. It can work for someone who wants to stick to a plan, but the extra excitement of unknown outcomes is a great motivation. As long as you don’t stray too far from your central plot, you should be able to fly by the seat of your pants just fine. Weaving new plot elements in can prove to be a challenge, but you must find a way to work it in as one of the gears of your machine.

For writers who like to feel a little more adventurous while working, this is a great way to get stories written. In the struggle to fight writer’s block and boredom, we all need some spice to reignite the fire. In that aim, we should still enjoy the journey of the process as much as we enjoy the finality when it’s done.




Guest post contributed by Angela DeRiso. Angela works as an artist and freelance writer. She writes articles on various topics of interest, book reviews, and is working on her own science fiction novel.