Simple Anatomy of a Plot Outline

Image

Somewhere between the synopsis and the treatment lies the plot outline, also known as a one page. Typically one-to-three pages in length, the plot outline is the bare bones of your story before it’s fleshed out with action description and dialogue.

Although there are no hard and fast rules on the level of detail that should be included, a standard plot outline generally contains:

  1. The protagonist and their goal.
  2. The antagonist and their goal.
  3. The supporting cast and their main wants.
  4. The five major plot points (as mentioned in a previous post)
  5. The order of events and sequences.
  6. A list of scenes that properly convey the story.

And if want to keep the anatomy of a plot outline in mind but you happen to be the forgetful type, have I got just the t-shirt for you: Plot Outline Tee (Hey, don’t even @ me. There’s no point in having a blog if you can’t indulge in a little shameless promotion every now and again).

Sally forth and be writeful.

Taking It On The Chin: The Graceful Art Of Accepting Rejection

“Was I bitter? Absolutely. Hurt? You bet your sweet ass I was hurt. Who doesn’t feel a part of their heart break at rejection. You ask yourself every question you can think of, what, why, how come, and then your sadness turns to anger. That’s my favorite part. It drives me, feeds me, and makes one hell of a story.” ― Jennifer Salaiz

Rejection is: a bitter pill to swallow, tough to handle, a serious downer, like getting sucker punched in the gut, blah-blah-blah. You get the picture, chiefly because you’ve experienced it in one form or another. We all have. Even with this blog, as harmless as it is, I sometimes receive emails that take issue with or flat out reject things I’ve posted. Hey, it happens. You can’t fault people for having opinions that differ from your own.

While it’s no big secret that we all seek acceptance, rejection—impossible to avoid once you step out of your comfort zone and into society—is a part of growth. That’s right, you need it in order to develop as a person and grow as a writer.

Here are a few ways that can help you cope during the initial rough patch of receiving a written or verbal rejection:

1. Take yourself out of the equation

Your written piece is your baby, forever tethered to you by an unseen and intangible umbilical cord, and although it will always be a part of you, when someone disapproves of your work, they’re not necessarily rejecting you, the person.

Yes, I’m well aware it’s impossible to completely divorce yourself from something you’ve created. Especially when that sly critter Self-Doubt sidles up beside you and makes you question if there’s something wrong with you or your talent. But instead of taking this to heart and allowing it to consume you, you need to adjust your thinking.

When your work is rejected it’s usually more a reflection of the viewpoint, needs or requirements of the person making the decision. The thoughts in your work may not align themselves with the thoughts of the audience, which doesn’t necessarily make it bad, it’s simply not a piece that fits into their jigsaw puzzle.

Of course, if they offer you a reason why your work was rejected, you shouldn’t rush to dismiss it. Take a step back, look at the critique objectively and if it has merit, consider using it in your next draft.

2. Anticipate rejection

It’s coming whether you like it or not, so why not bake a Bundt cake, put the kettle on and have yourself a little nosh when it arrives.

When writing, if you expect rejection, what it should do is make you up your game by challenging you to raise the yardstick, push the envelope and send your best work out into the world. And before you mistake my meaning, I’m not asking you to get down on your work and take the negative view that your writing isn’t good enough and never will be. I just want you to adjust your mental outlook. It’s like the saying goes, “Hope for the best, expect the worst.” It cuts down on the disappointment that may come later on.

Also, don’t let a rejection kill your drive and lead you down the path of procrastination. Use it to become a better, stronger writer.

3. Stay focused

You can’t control your peers, society or the world at large, so why not concentrate on your own thoughts, feelings, actions and behaviors? Just because you’re not gifted with the inhuman ability to alter reality, doesn’t mean you’re powerless to alter your personal reality. By turning your focus inward, you acknowledge what you want and realize you have the power to set events in motion to achieve your goals.

How does this apply to rejection? You may be able to avoid the downward spiral of self-doubt by accepting there will always be cynics who are entitled to their opinions, be they informed or otherwise, and said opinions do not—and I repeat do not—have power over you. Instead of focusing on their negativity, turn your attention to what you can control, applying what you’ve learned from their comments and moving forward to produce more powerful work.

4. Spot the merit in rejection

I know I’ve taken an “it’s them, not you” approach in this post but honestly, not all rejection is unfounded. We’ve all produced work that exists on different levels. Some writings strike the right chord with the majority of your audience and others miss the mark by scant inches and even a mile. This is when you let slip your inner critic and examine your work for uninspiring ideas, a poor approach, confusing views, unclear writing, etc.

It also helps to learn to self-question, which is far and way different from self-doubt. Turning detective and analyzing why the person in question didn’t accept the story, what were they looking for and what you could have done differently to meet their needs, may help you decipher learning points of which you were previous unaware.

A word of cautious: Unless you have a personal connection with an editor or publisher, I would advise against contacting them directly to ask why your work was rejected. While you may see it as a means to improve your craft, your intent may be misconstrued. You never want to gain the reputation of being that person. Or, perhaps you do. In that case, have at it. Who am I to tell you what to do?

5. Understand that rejection is growth

You’ve heard the saying, “One step forward, two steps back,” and you might believe receiving a rejection is taking those two soul-crushing backward steps, but you, my friend, are absolutely 100% incorrect. It’s the one step forward to understanding what people are looking for in the real world and how you can progress your writing to accomplish your objectives.

And if you have a piece of writing that has received more than a few rejections, instead of chucking it in the drawer of misfit tales, why not give it the once-over one more time, taking all the rejection information into account while you do it. You just might find that you can spot and understand the weak points in your story’s structure and fortify them with the experience you’ve gained from learning how to cope with, deconstruct and master the lessons within the criticism you’ve received.

As I said from the start, you’re not the only person who’s dealt with rejection. Click this link and view some of the rejection letters received by bestselling authors. If they can handle it and move on, so can you.

Sally forth and be writeful.

11 Things Every Writer Needs to Know (More About You and Less About the Writing)

“Write like you’ll live forever — fear is a bad editor. Write like you’ll croak today — death is the best editor. Fooling others is fun. Fooling yourself is a lethal mistake. Pick one — fame or delight.” ― Ron Dakron

  1. Writing is a steep, uphill battle but it’s fierce and it’s beautiful and you’ll regret walking away from it before you’ve seen it reach its potential.
  2. New people, experiences and opportunities to write about won’t stop coming into your life but you need to make space for them. Reexamine all your current relationships, obligations and habits and if you find value in them, hold onto them tighter. If their value escapes you, it’s time to let something go.
  3. Resolve to be awesome for the rest of your life, starting right now. Just because.
  4. Writing goals are not reserved for January 1st. Get in the habit of setting them monthly, hell, even weekly. Set them so that you’re moving forward and always trying to progress. Your writing can grow stagnant without them. Beware.
  5. Confidence is an attractive thing. Readers dig it. Non-readers dig it. We all dig it.
  6. Negative people chip away at your spirit. Flush the toxins and get yourself into a better writing head space.
  7. And if you slag off another writer because their abilities fail to impress or interest you, maybe you’re on the road to toxicity. Peer relationships are too valuable to muddy with what you perceive to be the shortcomings of other writers. If you can’t find enjoyment in someone’s writing, don’t read it. Plain and simple.
  8. You’re human and as such you’re going to waste many hours focusing on who you aren’t, or who you want to secretly be. But you won’t ever wake up and magically become that person. You’ve got to embrace what you bring to the table. If you don’t like what that is, have the courage to change it.
  9. Regret is a very real thing. It’s going to happen to you at some point. Don’t hold onto things forever but learn from them and let the past go. The past will be a dictator if you let it.
  10. Yes, when we write we create worlds, but the world doesn’t revolve around us. Turns out we’re just punctuations in a much larger story littered with periods and commas and dashes. How are you helping that story to be better? How are you being the best punctuation you can be?
  11. Tech advancement is coming at us fast and furious and it’s all too easy to let an emoticon laden text do the talking for you, too easy to click a Like or +1 button instead of engaging people in an actual dialogue. Never lose sight of the beauty of a conversation where you can watch a person’s face express actual emotions. Let a person know that they are worth your words. They are worth your presence. They are worth more than just letters on a screen. Face to face connections are fading faster everyday. Please don’t let the machines win.

Sally forth and be writeful.

— Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

Setting Your Mind the Write Way

Empty-frame

“Discipline allows magic. To be a writer is to be the very best of assassins. You do not sit down and write every day to force the Muse to show up. You get into the habit of writing every day so that when she shows up, you have the maximum chance of catching her, bashing her on the head, and squeezing every last drop out of that bitch.” — Lili St. Crow

The simple definition of what constitutes being a writer is:

A writer writes.

While I find this answer simple, honest and direct, it is not wholly true. You can, in fact, be a frustrated writer, a person who has writing on their minds but hasn’t yet made the time to commit their words to the page. That’s okay because it’s never too late to start. While I can’t speak to why you personally need to write, I can offer my opinion of why you should write.

It’s life changing.

Writing helps you reflect on your life and the changes you’re making. It clarifies your thinking. Doing it regularly makes you better at it. Crafting words for an audience helps you think from a reader’s perspective. Writing daily stimulates the brain into coming up with new ideas regularly and helps you work on your problem-solving skills.

The only thing standing between the thought of writing and the act of writing — is you. You need to plant your butt in the chair and put yourself into the proper frame of mind to write. It’s as easy as following these simple suggestions:

  1. Open yourself up to the wonder that surrounds you. Reconnect with that childlike curiosity. Be present and engaged in your life and the world.
  2. Understand that criticism isn’t your enemy. Accept it as it comes, learn from it and grow.
  3. Be passionate. About people. About life. About yourself.
  4. Stop hiding from fear. Face it, experience it, overcome it, then write about it.
  5. Stop trying to be normal. There’s no such creature.
  6. There isn’t a reason not to write. Don’t make excuses. Don’t accept them either.
  7. Pack your bags and move out of your comfort zone.
  8. Learn to approach writing with an attitude of gratitude. It’s a pleasure to write, not a chore.
  9. That person who stares back at you in the mirror? That’s not who you are, it’s who you used to be. Make a habit out of shocking yourself by taking risks.
  10. Fall in love with reading and the act of writing. Whenever you push the pen on paper, do it like you’re on your first date.
  11. New experiences create new story ideas. Expose yourself to as many as possible.
  12. You have a darkness inside you. We all do. Step boldly into the dark corners and explore the traits and characteristics you tamp down in an effort to fit into society. There’s juicy material just waiting to be excavated.
  13. Recognize when it’s time to take a breather. Stepping away and occupying your mind with something else allows you to return with a fresh perspective. Don’t stay away too long, though.
  14. Creatio ex interitus. From destruction comes creation. Make a habit of destroying something when you write, then build something new from the debris.
  15. Take no experience for granted, not even the mundane ones.
  16. Stop envying what other people have or what they’re doing with their lives. Concentrate on being you and be happy with yourself. Seriously.
  17. No retreat, no surrender. If I may be so bold as to quote Ed Harris from James Cameron’s The Abyss, “You never backed away from anything in your life! Now fight!” Never Give up, no matter what.

Sally forth and be writeful.

— Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

11 Things Every Writer Needs to Know (More About You and Less About the Writing)

“Write like you’ll live forever — fear is a bad editor. Write like you’ll croak today — death is the best editor. Fooling others is fun. Fooling yourself is a lethal mistake. Pick one — fame or delight.” ― Ron Dakron

  1. Writing is a steep, uphill battle but it’s fierce and it’s beautiful and you’ll regret walking away from it before you’ve seen it reach its potential.
  2. New people, experiences and opportunities to write about won’t stop coming into your life but you need to make space for them. Reexamine all your current relationships, obligations and habits and if you find value in them, hold onto them tighter. If their value escapes you, it’s time to let something go.
  3. Resolve to be awesome for the rest of your life, starting right now. Just because.
  4. Writing goals are not reserved for January 1st. Get in the habit of setting them monthly, hell, even weekly. Set them so that you’re moving forward and always trying to progress. Your writing can grow stagnant without them. Beware.
  5. Confidence is an attractive thing. Readers dig it. Non-readers dig it. We all dig it.
  6. Negative people chip away at your spirit. Flush the toxins and get yourself into a better writing head space.
  7. And if you slag off another writer because their abilities fail to impress or interest you, maybe you’re on the road to toxicity. Peer relationships are too valuable to muddy with what you perceive to be the shortcomings of other writers. If you can’t find enjoyment in someone’s writing, don’t read it. Plain and simple.
  8. You’re human and as such you’re going to waste many hours focusing on who you aren’t, or who you want to secretly be. But you won’t ever wake up and magically become that person. You’ve got to embrace what you bring to the table. If you don’t like what that is, have the courage to change it.
  9. Regret is a very real thing. It’s going to happen to you at some point. Don’t hold onto things forever but learn from them and let the past go. The past will be a dictator if you let it.
  10. Yes, when we write we create worlds, but the world doesn’t revolve around us. Turns out we’re just punctuations in a much larger story littered with periods and commas and dashes. How are you helping that story to be better? How are you being the best punctuation you can be?
  11. Tech advancement is coming at us fast and furious and it’s all too easy to let an emoticon laden text do the talking for you, too easy to click a Like or +1 button instead of engaging people in an actual dialogue. Never lose sight of the beauty of a conversation where you can watch a person’s face express actual emotions. Let a person know that they are worth your words. They are worth your presence. They are worth more than just letters on a screen. Face to face connections are fading faster everyday. Please don’t let the machines win.

Sally forth and be writeful.

— Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

Setting Your Mind the Write Way

Empty-frame

“Discipline allows magic. To be a writer is to be the very best of assassins. You do not sit down and write every day to force the Muse to show up. You get into the habit of writing every day so that when she shows up, you have the maximum chance of catching her, bashing her on the head, and squeezing every last drop out of that bitch.” — Lili St. Crow

The simple definition of what constitutes being a writer is:

A writer writes.

While I find this answer simple, honest and direct, it is not wholly true. You can, in fact, be a frustrated writer, a person who has writing on their minds but hasn’t yet made the time to commit their words to the page. That’s okay because it’s never too late to start. While I can’t speak to why you personally need to write, I can offer my opinion of why you should write.

It’s life changing.

Writing helps you reflect on your life and the changes you’re making. It clarifies your thinking. Doing it regularly makes you better at it. Crafting words for an audience helps you think from a reader’s perspective. Writing daily stimulates the brain into coming up with new ideas regularly and helps you work on your problem-solving skills.

The only thing standing between the thought of writing and the act of writing — is you. You need to plant your butt in the chair and put yourself into the proper frame of mind to write. It’s as easy as following these simple suggestions:

  1. Open yourself up to the wonder that surrounds you. Reconnect with that childlike curiosity. Be present and engaged in your life and the world.
  2. Understand that criticism isn’t your enemy. Accept it as it comes, learn from it and grow.
  3. Be passionate. About people. About life. About yourself.
  4. Stop hiding from fear. Face it, experience it, overcome it, then write about it.
  5. Stop trying to be normal. There’s no such creature.
  6. There isn’t a reason not to write. Don’t make excuses. Don’t accept them either.
  7. Pack your bags and move out of your comfort zone.
  8. Learn to approach writing with an attitude of gratitude. It’s a pleasure to write, not a chore.
  9. That person who stares back at you in the mirror? That’s not who you are, it’s who you used to be. Make a habit out of shocking yourself by taking risks.
  10. Fall in love with reading and the act of writing. Whenever you push the pen on paper, do it like you’re on your first date.
  11. New experiences create new story ideas. Expose yourself to as many as possible.
  12. You have a darkness inside you. We all do. Step boldly into the dark corners and explore the traits and characteristics you tamp down in an effort to fit into society. There’s juicy material just waiting to be excavated.
  13. Recognize when it’s time to take a breather. Stepping away and occupying your mind with something else allows you to return with a fresh perspective. Don’t stay away too long, though.
  14. Creatio ex interitus. From destruction comes creation. Make a habit of destroying something when you write, then build something new from the debris.
  15. Take no experience for granted, not even the mundane ones.
  16. Stop envying what other people have or what they’re doing with their lives. Concentrate on being you and be happy with yourself. Seriously.
  17. No retreat, no surrender. If I may be so bold as to quote Ed Harris from James Cameron’s The Abyss, “You never backed away from anything in your life! Now fight!” Never Give up, no matter what.

Sally forth and be writeful.

— Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys