How to Reverse Outline Your Story

Today, I’m honored to be hosted on Writers Helping Writers. You can stop by the blog to read my guest post “Reverse Outlining,” which is an excerpt from my book Outlining Your Novel. Below is a sneak peek:

When you think of outlines, you generally think about organization, right? The whole point of outlining, versus the seat-of-the-pants method, is to give the writer a road map, a set of guidelines, a plan. An outline should be simple, streamlined, and linear. An outline should put things in order. So you’re probably going to think I’m crazy when I tell you one of the most effective ways to make certain every scene matters is to use reverse outlining.

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About K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland

K.M. Weiland is the award-winning and internationally-published author of the acclaimed writing guides Outlining Your Novel, Structuring Your Novel, and Creating Character Arcs. A native of western Nebraska, she writes historical and fantasy novels and mentors authors on her award-winning website Helping Writers Become Authors.


  1. I loved the post. I’m hoping I win your book.

  2. What I struggle with as a writer is making the story I have always wanted to write more interesting or high concept. I love reading writing books and yours sounds unique. Great post.

  3. @Natalie: Thanks so much! Good luck in the drawing.

    @Judy: Some authors think in concepts – and then have to flesh them out – and some (myself included) think in characters – and then have to figure out the concept. Both methods come with their own sets of challenges.

  4. Thanks so much for Guest Posting, Katie! Clearly by the comments, a ton of writers struggle with structure and your outlining technique is inspiring some new ideas on how to handle plotting issues. 🙂 It’s always a pleasure to learn from you. 🙂


  5. I was blown away by all the comments when I logged on this morning. Thanks for the opportunity to post! I’m excited to connect with such a great bunch of writers.

  6. I really loved your post, it was very helpful to me. I would love to read your book – and will 🙂

  7. Thanks, Yelena! I’m glad you enjoyed the post, and I hope you find the book useful in your writing journey.

  8. That’s a great and timely reminder. I have your book, very practical and thorough. It’s both useful and enjoyable. I need to re-read it.

    Actually–I don’t know if you originated this “reverse outlining” idea, but it is a brilliant one. Kind of like reverse engineering.

    “a set of guidelines, a plan. An outline should be simple, streamlined, and linear.”–absolutely, and I also use an outline for plants (seeds I’ll grow later), reminders of how often certain characters appear, any reminders in fact, judging pace, and on an on. It’s fun at times to pants-it but for long works, at least to me, it would be crazy not to outline!

    I don’t think your crazy at all.

  9. I’m sure I’m not the first author to come up with reverse outlining. It’s such a great and intuitive technique that I would bet many people do it without even realizing that’s what they’re doing.

  10. I went over and made a comment. I am sometimes a panster (just get to writing, will ya?), and sometimes I outline. Sometimes I write the final scene first…how I want the story to end. I write horror, so it often ends badly (for certain characters). I am sharing the post with friends over at the Orangeberry Group.

  11. Thanks, Karen! The ability to successfully balance traits of both the outliner and the pantser is great. The best of both worlds!

  12. Excellent blog really like it games.
    Thanks for sharing this idea interesting blog, Please continue this great work.

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  13. Love the post.

  14. Thanks for stopping by!

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