Monday, February 25, 2013

Tool # 24: Work from a plan.

...Index the big parts of your works.

Today I am featuring another chapter from Roy Peter Clark's book,
"Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies For Every Writer," published by Little, Brown and Company. You can find a copy here.

Now we have moved into Part Three: Blueprints. Or, as I would say, "You gotta have a plan..."

But, from this day forward, the posts will be shorter. Why? Let me tell you what has happened since last week...

It had occurred to me, after receiving an email from a friend, that it might be stepping over copyright bounds to share almost the entire chapter each week. Since I am not good at summarizing non-fiction, and worried that I would misinterpret Roy's meaning, I thought it best to post it word for word.

Even tho' I gave him full credit, and meant no harm, I decided to contact Mr. Clark and ask his advice. I was honest with him, explaining what I had done. What a surprise when I received a kind and helpful response! I was touched and filled with gratitude. He included instructions for keeping within the copyright laws, suggesting I use only one example, or paragraph, and then summarize the chapter in my own words. Roy also encouraged me to have a link which would allow my readers to purchase the book, if so desired, and give full credit to him and his publishers. So, this is what I have done...

Hopefully, this advice will be helpful to anyone who is thinking of sharing another author's work online. Now, on we go with this week's post:

"Good work has parts: beginning, middle, and ending. Even writers who achieve a seamless tapestry can point out the invisible stitching. A writer who knows the big parts can name them for the reader, using such markers as subheadings and chapter titles. The reader who sees the big parts is more likely to remember the whole story."

Then Roy gives an example from his own life:

"Many writers of the old school were required to hand in outlines with drafts of our stories..."

But, he struggled with this, so...

" a survival mechanism, I invented the reverse outline. I would write a full draft of the story and then create the outline. This turned out to be a useful tool: if I could not write the outline from the story, it meant I could not discern the parts from the whole, revealing the problem of organization."

Brilliant! Write the story first, then outline. Never would have thought of it. If you can't outline, the plot isn't making sense. If you can, as Mr. Clark points out later, it will "create additional points of entry." You can then add characters or scenes to fill out your story.

In one of his WORKSHOP activities, Roy suggests the following:

Find the longest piece you have written in the last year. Using a pencil, mark it up according to its parts. Now label those parts with headings and subheadings.

Have you ever outlined your work, whether fiction or non-fiction? If not, give it a try!

Next week, Tool #25: Learn the difference between reports and stories.


  1. I have not outlined my first novel, and find writing a synopsis difficult when it's supposed to be two pages. Thanks for the tip. I'll be checking back for more and will certainly check out "Writing Tools"by Roy Clark. Thanks. I'm A to Z-ing it for the second year and would like to offer you the Liebster Award, which will introduce you to others of like interests and offer you the opportunity to meet us. Looking forward to a month of fun in April.

    1. Thanks, Kathy! You will have to tell me more about the award. I'd love to have the opportunity to meet others of like minds. My time is limited these next two months, but, I will do what I can. I'm feeling overwhelmed!

  2. Oops, I forgot to give you my blog.

  3. I so understand busy. I usually have so much on my plate that I go without sleep to accomplish everything, and then I pay the sandman back later when I have the time. Time is the most precious item we own, and it gets spent whether we are using it wisely or not. Good luck homeschooling. My daughter does the same thing, and I used to, years ago. Have fun with the A to Z Campaign.


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Journey into the Promised Land

Journey into the Promised Land
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