Backwards Outlining

I did not come up with this on my own; I got it from Sarah Monette back in 2003.

Backwards or reverse outlining is, essentially, seeing what you’ve already done. It’s an aid to structure, and it’s helped me more than once.

Take your completed novel draft. Outline it. What are the major ideas of each chapter, each scene?

Study your outline. What did you repeat too many times? What didn’t you write about enough?

The outline itself can be angled to suit your purposes. You can outline from a character angle, or a plot angle, or a theme angle. (For me, it’s usually the character angle.) You can break your novel down into fragments as small as you find helpful.

The purpose of the exercise is to look at the overall shape without being distracted by the pretty illustrations.

This also works for published books – you can get a good idea of the plot structure from outlining the central problems of each chapter, and seeing how the author resolved them.

Published by Victoria Janssen

Victoria Janssen’s writing showcases her voracious lifelong love of books. She reads over 120 new books each year, especially historical romance, fantasy, and space opera, and incorporates these genres into her erotic fiction. Her first erotic novel, The Duchess, Her Maid, The Groom and Their Lover (Harlequin Spice, December 2008), was translated into French and German. Her second Spice novel, The Moonlight Mistress (December 2009), was translated into Italian and nominated for a RT Reviews Reviewers’ Choice Award. Her third novel is The Duke & The Pirate Queen (December 2010). She has also published erotic short stories as Elspeth Potter. When not writing, Victoria conducts research in libraries and graveyards, lectures about writing and selling erotica, and speaks at literary conventions on topics such as paranormal romance, urban fantasy, erotic science fiction/fantasy, and the empowerment of women through unconventional means. Her daily writing blog features professional writing and marketing tips, genre discussion, book reviews, and author interviews. She also guest blogs for Heroes & Heartbreakers and The Criminal Element. She lives in Philadelphia.

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