A Peek at a Developmental Editor’s Story Outline

Stacy Melanie Jerger (@ApoideaEdits)

I'm a developmental editor, but I'm also a writer. Lately the plot bunnies have been hitting me right and left.

Maybe it’s because it’s autumn and I love this time of year. This season makes me want to go on a writer’s retreat to some cabin in the woods and drink hot cocoa (like a romantic getaway weekend with me and my characters).

Maybe it’s because I’ve been going to a lot of writing and book events and the excitement from those events has inspired me again. (WANACon was particularly awesome and I’ll blog about that soon.)

Or maybe it’s because NaNoWriMo is starting soon and even though I hardly have any time to dedicate to NaNo, I signed up. (I’m SpacyStacy if you’d like to add me.)

Whatever the reason, the planets have aligned and I'm back in the writing spirit.

It shouldn’t be a surprise that developmental editors have writing urges, too. In my editing work I’m evaluating characters and backstory and setting and plot—granted, they’re not mine, they’re the author’s. But in order to do what I do, I use a healthy amount of creativity and problem-solving skills. And as writers, we use those skills constantly.

I’ve been carrying around a small notebook and filling it with ideas. This is probably the most fun for me in the writing process (second to the revision process).

Here’s what my very basic story outlines look like:


Since I’m a mixed breed of pantser-plotter, my outlines are pretty minimal. As you can see in one of the structures, two plot points are blank. I’m still working those out. :)

Here’s what I include in my outlining process:

  • I work within a 3 Act structure and summarize some major plot points—inciting moment, point of no return, midpoint, crisis, etc.
  • I write one to two lines of my character arc (what is the character willing to do by the end that she wasn’t willing to do in the beginning?).
  • I write a small paragraph for each character’s background info.

That’s it! I have a starting point and a structure. My subconscious works away as I’m writing what isn’t planned.

Lining up my plot bunnies this way works for me, but it doesn’t work for everyone. What’s your outlining method? Are you planning for NaNoWriMo this year?