I occasionally remind myself of craft principles by going back to the well and reading a book about writing. This week, I read David Farland’s Million Dollar Outlines. If you’re trying to write your first novel (or your nth novel) and you don’t already own this book, you should buy it now.
Million Dollar Outlines is part of WordFire Press’s Million Dollar Writing series (the hook is that the author of the book on each subject has actually made at least a million dollars by implementing the skills described in the book). It’s relatively short, and its tone is pithy and conversational. Dave uses accessible examples from literature and film. And though one of the last chapters specifically addresses the components of a good outline, most of the book builds the foundation for that chapter by walking the reader-writer through fiction, from the ground up.
Dave starts by comparing plot arc maps with endorphin biofeedback diagrams to try to answer the basic question why on earth would anybody want to read a novel, anyway? Having touched bedrock with that analysis, he builds up by digging into audience needs, identification with character, and the structure of plot, until the student-author is ready to sit down and outline her next novel from start to finish.