Writing Novels #2: Outlining a Novel

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Writing Novels #2: Outlining a Novel


There are so many different ways to go about this. Truthfully, there really is no wrong or right way, it's whatever works for the writer.

I know from experience, though, that sometimes you can be clueless about what works for you. So I'm going to cover a few ways I've found to work throughout my years of writing, including writing books with no outline. Hopefully one way will help you in your writing journey.



- For many, many years, this was how I went about my story-writing. I would just write as the ideas came, and let it flow. I thought this was the best way for me, until I realized that this method was contributing to me ending up in the middle of the story, lost for plot ideas. Of course, in my head I had the beginning, the end, and a few major plot points planned out, but what about the rest? I had expected those to come to me as I was writing, but more often than not, I ended up not being able to finish because I got stuck.

There are many reasons people may choose not to outline. I've heard people say that if they try outlining, they lose all inspiration and are bored of the story before they have even begun writing.

Perhaps that's why this method works for some people, because they are able to write while the inspiration remains and the idea is fresh.



-This is actually a method I use quite often. I open up a Word document, and just started typing out the major plot points I have already thought of in chronological order.


-Sally meets John in restaurant. She is interested but he clearly isn't.

-Work's annual Christmas party! Everyone needs to bring a date. Sally wants to go with John, but he declines. Still doesn't know why.

-Sally decides to trick John into going.

Etc. Etc.

Those are very basic plot ideas, and then I usually go back and fill in the smaller plot points. Once the ideas are down on paper, it is easier to see what makes sense, what doesn't, what needs more explaining, and how to connect everything. This method allows you to go back whenever you want and add in new ideas to the story.

Also, if there are specific little detail ideas you want to remember, you can simply add those on to the plot points.



If my story is more complex than the example listed above, I usually do a lot more than what I just showed you. My "indepth outlining" includes character bios (a good example of which I will show you in another chapter), family trees, and detailed history about the world or time period my story takes place in.

Also, I will include details such as any characters deaths in the stories, crazy plot twists I hope the readers won't see coming, emotions I want readers to feel, and anything else like this even if I don't know where in the book those ideas will be yet.

This way, I am fully prepared with knowledge about everything going on once I begin my story.



I have personally never used this method, but I know that many people do. This often involves starting off with a general chronological idea list, then sectioning it into chapters. I have never used this method because I don't like to feel restricted. I like to know that if I come up with a new plot idea, I could slip it in there without messing up my outline for future chapters.

However, this can be good to help the writer focus on EXACTLY what needs to happen in that specific chapter, what to lead up to, and how to end it. If you would like help focusing on what each chapter needs, you can try this method. However, make sure you provide enough plot points for each chapter, otherwise you'll be stuck trying to make the chapter longer with pointless filler stuff!



There are definitely many other methods that I have never tried, but that many great authors have used. As I'm writing this, I'm looking at J.K. Rowling's outline for the Harry Potter series. She used a spreadsheet layout with individual boxes for each idea and dates which she planned to write it on.

To see this and other famous author's outlines, click on the external link. Keep in mind, though, that while these are written in paper, many of them were back before computers were common. Now, computer programs make it much easier to remove or add in plot ideas whenever you come across plot-holes or the like.

Also, try googling "novel outlining" if none of these methods appeal to you, or you would like to learn more. There are plenty of free resources out there about this topic!

ALSO, always save a backup of your outline if you can! You have no idea how devastating it is to lose all of those great ideas and plot points.

As always, I'll be happy to answer any questions or take specific topic requests. :)

Your next step? WRITE.

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