Nancy's Books

Sunday, January 29, 2017

To Outline or Not, part 3

Outlining is the key to an organized manuscript.

Logical sequence is a must in a story. An outline helps me visualize the character’s motivation, followed by the continuity of the action, all before I start writing. I figure out the obstacles confronting the protagonist and how s/he reacts. My mind roams free as I outline with the goal of developing more ideas than will be needed so I have a choice or if one idea fails to work, I can select another. Life experiences or bits and pieces of stories I’ve read or heard inspire me to craft a story that is a reflection of my literary style.

As I researched and outlined the manuscript for BARRELING OVER NIAGARA FALLS, I needed to show the motivation for Annie Edson Taylor, a sixty-three-year-old woman who was not into sports or fitness, to ride a barrel over Niagara Falls. No one had ever performed this stunt, which offered strong potential for a violent and/or deadly outcome. Annie seemed to be an extremely unlikely candidate. As I learned more about her meager savings, lack of potential for long-term employment, and knack for detailed planning, I included this into the outline, clearly defining WHY she performed the stunt.

Next came the HOW of the story. How did Annie prepare for the stunt? Pacing is vital to a picture book. Each page must provide action, something in which the character does or is done to the character. Illustrators rely on specific action. Pacing refers to how quickly, or slowly, the action happens. An outline allows me to see where the action is taking place. As Annie prepared, through a trial-and-error approach, the pacing slowed. When she rode the barrel over the Falls, the pacing picked up speed. Even though the pacing increased with the barrel ride, I didn’t want the scene to play out too quickly in order to keep the tension high and keep the reader wondering if she would live or die. Pacing in a story is much like the ever changing ebb and flow of Niagara River and the Falls—it slows down and speeds up according to the elements involved and is different with every story.

Next week, I’ll list more reasons why a simple, easy outline helps me be more productive.
Call for submissions for Young Writers:

Hello Giggles is a lifestyle website founded in 2011 by writer Molly McAleer, producer Sophia Rossi and actress Zooey Deschanel. The site is currently seeking young contributors for its newly launched teen section. The editors are looking for personal essays, cultural criticism, articles with original reporting, short fiction, and illustrations. Contributors must be at least 14 years of age. Hello Giggles attracts over 12 million readers per month

Submission guidelines at 

Call for submissions for Adult Writers:

Parents & Kids Magazine. In addition to the topics below, we also accept seasonal submissions. So we are always interested in a Valentine's story for our February issue. Submit seasonal things well in advance.  I really don’t mind looking at your Christmas ideas in May.  Really.


Know & Go Guide 


Heart Health & Women’s Fitness 


Ultimate Summer Fun Guide

Summer Camp Guide 


Summer Travel




Metro School Guide 


Birthday Parties 


Maternity and Pediatric Health Guide 



After-School Activities 


Sports & Play

Family Fitness 


Halloween & Fall Fun Guide 





Nancy Kelly Allen has written 40+ children’s books and a cookbook, SPIRIT OF KENTUCKY: BOURBON COOKBOOK.

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