The Tao of the Inner Outline

Playing on my music player: Take my picture-Filter

If you read my last post on the Inner Outline you might be thinking “This is great stuff!” followed by “But what exactly is it?”

Here is where I try to explain what I mean by the Inner Outline. Try and hopefully succeed. So what is the Inner Outline anyway?

In its simplest form, it is the notes you take while you write.

“That’s it?”

Yes and no.



Let me explain. The Inner Outline is more than just notes. It is the process by which, as you write you explore your narrative. Is the process of asking why.


No bomb. Now pay attention, eyes front. OK. Let say that you written the first 3 or 5 or 19 chapters. Spend countless hours crafting exciting scenes, elevated prose and interesting characters. That does not mean that you have a story.

“It doesn’t?”


The old joke among salesmen is that we have two ears but one mouth. We don’t listen while we talk and we talk when we should be listening. Writing is like talking. It is the flow of information from your brain to the outside world, in this case the page. But while we are doing that we are not listening to what we are writing. And I don’t mean the bad grammar or syntax. Nor am I talking about going back and re-examining every single every sentence for meaning.

The Inner Outline is about taking what you already have and growing it. It is about asking some key questions about your narrative;

Where am I?

What is going on?

Where do I go from here ?

It is the point where you stop talking (writing) and start listening (take notes). By doing this you can step back for a moment and see the narrative as a whole. You allow your characters to speak with their own voice. And you start seeing the paths ahead. You don’t need to ask all the questions at once, nor answer them, but by asking these questions as you write will illuminate the narrative by pulling you back and seeing the forest and the trees.

Think of this process as a having your personal writing group right there with you.

In future posts I’ll tackle specific uses for the Inner Outline, but for now, as you take that break, think of a few questions about where you are and where do you think your story should go next. The answers might surprise you.

3 comments on “The Tao of the Inner Outline

  1. Morning Ralfast,

    The answers to such questions usually start coming to me in second drafts. That’s when I see the forest without all the trees getting in the way.


  2. […] you I do not outline as that simply kills the whole writing experience for me, but I do write notes while I write, which helps me keep track of things (characters, locations, plot […]


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