Book Review: Million Dollar Outlines

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

Whether you’re a casual writer looking for ways to improve your craft, or a more serious writer wanting to strengthen skills you already have, this book is a must.

I’ve been wanting to take a novel writing class from David Farland for years, and wanting to learn to be a more disciplined outliner for even longer than that, so finally reading his Million Dollar Outlines was a perfect synthesis. Not only did the book fit the bill for thinking through and outlining a story, it went far beyond that. David also includes an in-depth and well-explained look into all of the nuts and bolts of a good novel: from characterization, to million dollar plots, to creating winning conflict, to building emotional resonance into your story. All intensely important components of any tale that is meant to have expansive appeal to readers, and laid out in easily groked and understood chunks. Plus, it contains an added highlight: excerpts from a conversation recorded in the late 70s/early 80s between Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, and screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan as they hashed out the plot for Raiders of the Lost Ark. Pure gold!

I am a heavy highlighter in almost every nonfiction book I read, and here are a few of the myriad great tidbits from Million Dollar Outlines. I’m sure I’ll read it at least three more times, it’s so full of great advice.

“Budrys points out: if the hero does not have to make three attempts to resolve a problem, then the problem was not difficult enough in the first place.”

“Every story should start with promises made—promises that you must keep.”

(On creating conflicts) “If a person is at the root of his own problem, it hints at secondary problems—internal conflicts.”

“Look at truly great stories and you will see this pattern emerge: The author often pulls off a complex resolution rather than working toward a simple resolution.”

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