Sunday, November 22, 2015

Review: Million Dollar Outlines

Million Dollar Outlines Million Dollar Outlines by David Farland
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Holy crap! My brain is overflowing with knowledge. David Farland's Million Dollar Outline has more information in it than I can possibly consume in a single reading. I've made bookmarks and highlighted passages which require a second pass, just to absorb the total wealth of knowledge and information provided.

This is a great book, and one I recommend to anyone serious about improving his or her craft. Normally I wouldn't have picked up this book. It's cover looks a little cheesy, the "Million Dollar" part speaks of something too-good-to-be-true, and (honestly) I'm at the end of my rope with how-to manuals for writers. I've read so many, with so many fantastic (yet surprisingly different) takes on writing, I don't want to read another for a very long time (and now that I'm done with Dave's book, I think I'll stick to that promise).

The reason I did read it was that it was provided as part of the course material for one of Dave's online workshops "Story Puzzle" (you can find out more information at The workshop is great and has forced me to look at my story in a new light. The book, however, goes hand-in-hand with the workshop and offers so many tools to help improve the overall scope of telling a good story (we're not talking about the mechanics of sentence structure and subject-verb agreement here).

There is so much great (useful, important, inspiring) information in this one volume, I don't even know where to begin with a review. Perhaps I will sum up the biggest take away for me at this moment. Toward the end of the book, Dave discusses a writing conference between George Lucas, Stephen Spielberg, and Larry Kasdan as they discuss the story which will become Raiders of the Lost Ark. According to Dave, these three men spent 9 hours a day, over 5 days, discussing everything that could possibly happen in the story. They had so much information, they actually had enough for two films.

One point Dave makes is that many new authors start with too few ideas, and the result is a weak story. His advice: brainstorm, brainstorm, brainstorm. Create so many ideas to choose from, and then start culling. This will help you make a rich and fascinating story--and give yourself the time to do it. This has been my problem by far. I don't allow myself the time to properly brainstorm, create characters, plot, settings, arcs. Let alone simple scenes. I fear that if I'm not writing prolifically--I try to write a novel a year, and several short stories besides--I'm not being productive. But I never take the time to do these things. Maybe that's important.

This is a great read with so much information I recommend taking it in chunks and really allowing yourself to absorb every word.

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