Recommended Book for Fiction Writers
By Karen Morrissey

Fiction writers vary in how they plan their work. At one end of the spectrum are “discovery” writers, also called “pantsers” (for “by the seat of the pants”), who figure out their story by the process of writing it. At the other end are outliners, who work out the details of their story characters, conflicts, and scenes before writing the story itself.

I wrote my first novel, Fisher King: Percival’s Descent, mostly as an act of discovery, and it served the story well enough. However, I had specific ideas in advance for the sequel, Fisher King: Dancing Lance, and I wanted to plan the story more than I did for the first book.

CaptureThat’s why I got my hands on a copy of Million Dollar Outlines by David Farland. The Million Dollar series of books on writing are all penned by authors who have sold at least a million dollars worth of product.

I’m going to make a strange-sounding recommendation: even authors who don’t intend to outline their stories should read this book.

My reason for this recommendation is simple, only about 10% of Million Dollar Outlines is about outlining. The remaining 90% is about storytelling, with gems that are useful to the purest of discovery writers.

My biggest takeaway from reading the book was that the genres of fiction really describe the principal emotions evoked by works in those categories. And readers read stories specifically because they want to experience certain emotions, whether it be romance, heart-pounding excitement from action, or the thrill of the hunt from reading a mystery.

Farland, however, discusses much more, like what makes for a rich character and what is at the heart of stories in the top grossing books, movies, and TV shows.

The book is a quick read, reasonably priced, and I think most fiction writers will learn something useful about storytelling from this book. They’ll even learn how pros outline their stories and why.

Book review written by CIPA member, Karen Morrissey.

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