The workshop I’m teaching on Zoom through Writers in Progress over two consecutive Saturdays, June 5 & 12, is an introduction to one of the most powerful tools for seeing your fiction or memoir project as a whole I’ve ever come across. Whether you’re someone who plots and plans everything out before you put a word on a page, or you’re a pantser, and your fingers itch to get on the keys and you just dive right in with a vague idea of where you’re heading, this tool will transform the way you think about your book.
Confession: I’m a pantser at heart. As a pantser, I’m highly skeptical about anything concerning writing that has the word “outline” in it. Even though I write historical fiction (which in theory involves a whole lot of research and careful planning for how to use it), once that idea is in my head, I charge on and keep going until I write myself into a corner.
At least, that’s what I used to do. (Okay, I’m not 100% reformed.) I knew there had to be a better way, but when I studied those methods that have you outlining down to the beat, pinch point, inciting incident, and resolution, my teeth would itch. I couldn’t see the point of not letting the story find its own way, not letting the characters develop right in front of my eyes. Isn’t that half the fun? So I stuck to my old pantsing ways, writing multiple drafts until I stumbled on a way to make the story really work—after the fourth or fifth draft, usually.
Then one day I went to a webinar given by Jennie Nash, CEO of Author Accelerator and creator of the Inside Outline. The way she explained it, I thought, of course! My head exploded with the possibilities of putting that tool to work for myself.
You see, this was no typical outline. It was a whole new way of thinking about the structure, plot, character arc, theme—everything—of the book you’re writing or revising. It’s organic, and flexible, and can be used as a planning tool at the beginning of writing your book, in the middle when you’ve written yourself into a corner (raises hand) and need to figure out where things have gone wrong, or when you’re a draft or two in and you know something’s not working but you don’t know how to figure it out. It’s part of the Blueprint Program I coach, too.
It’s shockingly simple, really. There’s no inherent hierarchical outline or even places where you have to have a beat here or a crisis there. It’s simply a case of linking each scene in your book to the next scene in a cause and effect relationship. But there’s more: Each scene causes a response in the protagonist, setting off a reaction-decision-consequence chain that both leads inexorably to the next scene—therefore maintaining the pace of the plot—and moves the protagonist along her character arc.
I thought this tool was so brilliant that I signed up on the spot for the Author Accelerator Fiction Book Coaching course, got certified about six months later and started my book coaching business. And then I signed up for the nonfiction course when it became available, and got certified in that. Two rigorous, mind-blowing courses about helping writers write the best book or book proposal they can. I realized quickly that I could do more good for writers by helping them develop powerful tools they could use in their writing than by just reviewing manuscripts or doing line edits.
And thanks to Writers in Progress, I’ve also found ways to share these tools with writers who don’t have the means or the time to do one-on-one coaching with me. This workshop is one of them. It’s limited to eight participants, and I’ll be giving homework to do in the intervening week. I explain everything about the Inside Outline, pair you up with a partner so you can critique each other’s IO, and give feedback that I hope will help you continue the process on your own.
I absolutely promise it will rock your world. It really is amazing what an Inside Outline can reveal about your book, no matter where you are in the process. It’s the final step in a bigger program called the Blueprint Your Book Program, which is the foundation of my one-on-one coaching work.
So, if you’ve got an unruly manuscript that needs taming, or an idea that needs fleshing out before you decide to commit to it, I encourage you to sign up for this workshop. There are only three spots left as of now, so don’t wait!