David Farland's Million Dollar Outlines book
Recos for Writers

Book Recommendation: Million Dollar Outlines, by David Farland

I’m so excited to share with you my latest read on writing!

A few weeks ago, I finished Million Dollar Outlines, by David Farland. I first heard of the book when I attended David Farland’s “Writing Enchanted Prose” class at Fyrecon last year, and bought it because I don’t have great skill in outlining. I finally began reading it this year because I would be starting to write the sequel to Demon Fall. I really want to make writing this second book as easy as possible for myself, especially since I’ll be trying to plough through it for National Novel Writing Month.

What I Liked

This book delivered exactly what I was struggling with. It is awesome for teaching writers how to create detailed outlines that can be used both personally or for book proposals. It teaches writers how to break down the process into manageable chunks, something that I struggle with.

I’ve started using the techniques described in the books, such as creating a conflict/resolution page for each character to help discover the shape of the rising and falling action and decide on subplots. Since then, I’ve found it to be an excellent way to brainstorm plot points and find exciting side roads my stories can take.

Farland also gives really good ideas on narrative techniques writers can use to bring across their points and enhance emotion, such as doubling or tripling. As he describes these tools, he gives compelling examples in other works where the techniques are used to illustrate their impact.

Finally, at the end of the book, Farland includes the transcript for the planning meeting for Raiders of the Lost Ark. It was amazing to see how messy the process of outlining a million dollar story can be and how many ideas Lucas, Speilberg, and Kadsan went through to get the incredible story they finished with. 

Why I Recommend It

I highly recommend this book for anyone, but particularly discovery writers who want to learn how to outline. As a pantser myself, it helped me understand better the process of outlining and made it accessible to me. But the greatest benefit has been to see that I can combine outlining with my discovery writing super power with outlining to become an even more effective writer. To me, that is worth a lot. 

This book also has excellent examples of how to make the taught tools work. I learn best through modeling, and reading the excerpts Farland included helped me see the practical application.

The last thing I would recommend it for was the diagrams. In one section of the book, Farland describes “story shape” and then illustrates with some excellent diagrams to show how the characters’ plots intertwine and unfold and give the story its shape. He presented applicable examples from popular books, showing how each character arc comes together to make the full plot. It got me excited to figure out how to get that to work for me and see if it makes me more effective.

What book about writing has made the greatest impact on you and your work? Share it with me in the comments below!

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