Outlining Your Novel Box Set: How To Write Your Best Book by K.M. Weiland

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

I’ve been meaning to write this review for several months, but before I could adequately review these books, I needed to put their content into practice. Then I had to decide when to be done. How deep did I want to go in outlining? How would I know if my outline was any good before I finished drafting the book again? Ultimately I decided to write this after finishing my outline and character profiles and before starting the next draft of the book—because NaNoWriMo begins in two weeks and you need time to make an outline.

Review of the Outlining Your Novel Digital Box Set by K.M. Weiland | Lydia Sanders #TwistyMustacheReviews

K.M. Weiland’s Outlining Your Novel digital box set includes two ebooks in one volume:

Outlining Your Novel makes up the first two-thirds of the digital box set. K.M. Weiland recommends reading it before jumping into the workbook because it lays the groundwork for what's to come, and I totally agree. This book gives more theoretical information than the workbook and some general writing advice.

It includes:

  1. Information on the myths, benefits, and uses of outlines
  2. Chapters that slowly build from idea to outline
  3. Help for the different parts of outlining a story (characters, settings, conflict, theme, plot, structure, and even audience considerations)
  4. Tons of interviews with other authors on their opinions and methods for outlining
  5. Application questions
  6. End of chapter checklists

The Outlining Your Novel Workbook makes up the final third of the digital box set. It builds on concepts from the main book with even more application questions and exercises. Sections with correlating chapters in the main book note what those chapters are so that you can easily reference back and forth between them. This book is incredibly dense, and not in a bad way. There is a ton of material to help you learn to create a great outline for your individual writing process.

Overall, these books are more about brainstorming than the structure of outlining. While this set has some information on story structure, it's not nearly as in-depth as Weiland’s other book, Structuring your novel (which also has a workbook and a digital box set). The logical progression is to use Outlining Your Novel for brainstorming and other prewriting exercises but to move on to Structuring Your Novel while ordering the events of your story, deciding which events to keep in an outline, and which to get rid of for the sake of structure. Some people apply the knowledge from Structuring Your Novel to their outline before writing the first draft, and others wait until after they’ve told the story to try to arrange it to its best advantage. Any way you work is fine. I am familiar enough with the information from Structuring Your Novel that I applied it while making my outline, but I’ll need to read it again before I revise this next draft.

On a practical level, the questions and exercises in The Outlining Your Novel digital box set helped me to think. I managed to fix some important issues with my main character and the core themes of my story before beginning the draft. While I was working through the exercises in the book, I also got an idea that fixed the lack of antagonistic tension in a big chunk of my story. As with anything creative, your results will vary, but the creative exercises definitely helped me to come up with the ideas to pull my story out of some serious messes. I think that’s what the exercises are supposed to do. They can’t think for you, but if you do them, they can help you train yourself how to think, and when you know how to think, it’s easier to solve the problems in your story.

It's also worth noting that not every creative exercise in these books will be helpful for every novel or every writer. I skipped over several because I'd already done something similar earlier in my brainstorming process. I skipped other things because I didn't think they'd be useful to me (making a specific playlist for my novel, for instance). These books gave me the guidance to develop a unique outlining process that works well for me.

Some of the advice is a little outdated, at least in my copy. (Some indie authors periodically update their books and I’m not sure if Weiland does.) While in the book she said that she writing a character to fit an MBTI would result in a cardboard character, she has since learned more about the MBTI system and the Enneagram and has used both typing systems in character creation. She also now recommends Scrivener rather than yWriter. Like anyone, Katie's process is constantly evolving. She learns stuff. Technology changes. The exercises and questions in these books, however, are not likely to go out of date. 

Bottom Line

I found these books helpful in my outlining process and would recommend them to anyone who's having trouble outlining or (for pantsers) coming up with enough ideas to get their story going. I give the Outlining Your Novel digital box set six out of seven twisty mustaches and look forward to rereading Structuring Your Novel.

Have you read these books? Were they helpful in your own outlining process?
Leave a comment below or my hairless ghost lemur will haunt your dreams.

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