Adapting My Save the Cat Scene Outline

My Beat Sheet and Scene Outline combined.

At one time, I hated outlining a project. Hated it.

Then I started writing for RedLine Editorial. I have to outline a project so that my editor can make sure it is a good fit for the series. Nonfiction outlines aren’t an issue although I do sometimes have to play around with them to see where everything I need to include can fit.

But fiction outlines? Nothing about fiction is easy.

One of the things that we learned to do in the Save the Cat Cracking the Beat Sheet class was to create a scene outline. You do it on a corkboard, poster board, or bulletin board after you create a Beat Sheet – the outline that contains 14 beats.

Once you have your beat sheet, you divide your board into four tiers – Act 1, Act 2A (before the midpoint), Act 2B, and Act 3. As you add index cards or post it notes you can visually gauge that the tiers are balanced.

My friend Rene is highly visual. She loves this method.

I’m visual too but it didn’t work for me. I made it about half way and my brain just quit cooperating. I finally realized that the board is too cluttered. The cards overlap. I need to see each one in its entirety.

Getting a bigger board isn’t really an option but I could create a Word document. It has four pages – Act 1, Act 2A (before the midpoint), Act 2B, and Act 3. Each page has two columns. The left column has the appropriate beats. The right column is where I expand them into scenes. Being able to see the beats and the scenes was so helpful!

Not every technique works for every writer. A sloppy board? Many of you wouldn’t care. But I hope that what you take away from this is the idea that if a technique doesn’t work you can change it up. Take what works and keep it, but explore and experiment until you find, or create, the tool you need.