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.

About Victoria Janssen

Victoria Janssen [she, her] currently writes cozy space opera for Kalikoi. The novella series A Place of Refuge begins with Finding Refuge: Telepathic warrior Talia Avi, genius engineer Miki Boudreaux, and augmented soldier Faigin Balfour fought the fascist Federated Colonies for ten years, following the charismatic dissenter Jon Churchill. Then Jon disappeared, Talia was thought dead, and Miki and Faigin struggled to take Jon’s place and stay alive. When the FC is unexpectedly upended, Talia is reunited with her friends and they are given sanctuary on the enigmatic planet Refuge. The trio of former guerillas strive to recover from lifetimes of trauma, build new lives on a planet with endless horizons, and forge tender new connections with each other.
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One Response to Backwards Outlining

  1. Jenna Reynolds says:

    Interesting concept! Thanks for sharing!

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